Q. How should one handle a topic of conversation that is joyous for the other people, but to which one's contribution would be less than cheerful, possibly even depressing? Many of my friends are either getting married or having babies lately, while my hopes for a family have been dashed for now by a broken romance.

I usually try to draw out the others and talk about their cheerful news. While I don't want selfishly to call attention to my problems, saying nothing about them leaves me feeling misunderstood and left out, especially since many of these acquaintances don't know my situation. Maybe you have a suggestion.

A. What Miss Manners has is encouragement in what you have already been doing. She hopes you will understand if she conveys it forcefully, because it is not only a principle of civilization that she wishes to save, but your own possibility of happiness.

It is futile to compare other people's fortunes with your own, especially other people's good fortune with your lack of it. Natural, yes--but destructive. You will only depress yourself, as well as them, if you inject a bitter note of but-what-about-me? into the happiness of others.

Your broken romance is unfortunate, but it is totally unrelated to your friends' marriages and babies. One rejoices on such occasions first because one genuinely cares about the welfare of friends, and second because the greater the sum of joy in the world, the better a place it is for all of us. If you can teach yourself not only to express this (which Miss Manners commends you for doing already) but to feel it, you will have more opportunities to create your own family than you know what to do with. There is nothing more attractive, you see, than a truly generous pleasure in the riches of life, even when they belong to others.