Q. My predicament is not new or unusual. I an hopelessely in love with a girl who unfortunately is in love with another man. For some time I thought my case was hopeless; however this spring I found out her boyfriend is moving away.

At first I thought she would be heartbroken, but instead she has been very casual about the situation.

My question is, what would be a proper waiting period before asking her out or demonstrating my interest in developing a closer friendship?

Also, when I do get her to accompany me, should I act only slightly interested and pretend not to be overwhelmed by her charm, or should I let her know how I feel about her?

A. There is no formal waiting period observed by a lady who is bereaved because her boyfriend has moved away.

In fact, there seems to be no such waiting period for any kind of bereavement any longer, although Miss Manners did think it in questonable taste when she heard of a proposal being made to a gentleman whose wife had almost, but not quite, completed the formality of dying.

So let us abandon the pretense of talking etiquette, in this case, and talk strategy.

Strategically, it is best to be the next romance but one, when following romance that has come to grief in one way or another. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the generous soul who listens to outpourings of anguish, devises ways to distract the unhappy one, takes the midnight telephone calls and selflessly surpresses his or her desires in order to devote full time to nursing the beloved back to emotional health -- that person gets thanked and dumped when the recovered patient is ready to fall in love again and picks the first object it sees.

This is frightfully ungrateful, of course, but it happens all the time. The nurse is associated with the unpleasent atmosphere of the sickroom.

Nevertheless, Miss Manners understands that you, having waited out this gentleman, are not prepared to wait for a second to come along and then go along.

Also, she knows that every once in a while someone marries the first candidate on the rebound, rather than the second, and that you would be perfectly furious at Miss Manners if this turned out to be one of the cases.

Her advice, then, is to step in now, but to be as little like a therapist as possible. Do not encourage this lady to talk about her woes, do not allow her to treat you sloppily on the grounds that she is not feeling at her best, do not be excessively understanding, at the expense of your own comfort.

Be a confident suitor, expecting the lady to behave well toward you, and acting normally cautious and casual.

Miss Manners is sorry to have to tell anyone to be less kind and unselfish than he would like to be, but surely you heard about nice guys finishing last.

Q. Kindly answer the following questions:

1. Is it correct to tilt your soup bowl toward or away from you?

2. Do you serve guests from their left side or right side?

3. Does the man of the house get served first or does the guest?

A. Do you mind if Miss Manners, just answers questions with questions?

1. In case of accident, would you want the soup heading toward your lap?

2. Are they right-handed (in which case it is easier for them to serve themselves from platters presented to the left side, giving the right hand more operation space) or left-handed?

3. What sort of household are you running, even to consider violating both the laws of chivarly and the laws of hospitality at the same time?