What a marvelous, carefree time college is. There is nothing to do but read and write, all in beautiful and dignified surroundings, in the company of unattached and attractive people of one's own age, interests and abilities.
It is too bad that such an idyllic existence is confined to the reveries of those who are not matriculated. Not content with this ironic discovery, and recognizing that it is not quite nice to take amusement in finding that youth has its troubles too, Miss Manners has long puzzled about why clouds of human suffering should hang over such pretty institutions.
It was long ago, as a student herself, that Miss Manners first noticed a pattern to undergraduate romance. Just about every young person, she observed, had a passion for some other young person, who treated the admirer with callous cruelty. In turn, each of these victims of love commanded the passions of another person, known as The Creep, and treated, in turn, disdainfully. Thus, an endless chain of misery was formed.
Why anyone would want to live that way, Miss Manners could not imagine. Why was unrequited love such a powerful force, and why was anyone with a passion for oneself considered contemptible? Miss Manners would have thought that being madly in love with one's own dear self would be a most alluring demonstration of good taste.
And so it is, in the mature. After people have attained full emotional growth, which is unfortunately never for a great proportion of the population, they can actually enjoy being truly loved. When you hear of someone who can't be happy if allowed to become secure about a partner's affections, you know that such a stage has not yet been reached.
Miss Manners is always suspicious of the concept of "being taken for granted," used to explain the demise of a romance. It either means that the person subscribes to the heinous idea that it is not necessary to be mannerly to those who are committed to one, or that someone is unable to sustain interest in anyone who does not provide the cheap excitement of uncertainty. To the real grown-up, knowing that one can rely on another person's love is one of the greatest joys of life.
Miss Manners does not expect such wisdom to appear in, say, the first third of life. It is quite reasonable then, she believes, to be interested in finding out, in a variety of ways, how one measures up in the society. Grades and careers are one way of doing this. Another is considered to be the ability to attract someone worth attracting. What makes all that trouble is deciding who is in that category.
In elementary and secondary schools, the children are notoriously incapable of judging one another individually. The whole class agrees that this or that child is the most beautiful, much to the amazement of parents, who notice that this person may be quite homely and a truly good-looking child goes unnoticed. That is because the very young recognize only self-confidence, and render group judgments based on accepting people at their own high or low evaluations.
In the late teens, there tend to be more distinctions based on objective standards or individual preferences. Still, the idea often hangs on that only a person who thinks he or she is too good for you is good enough. Conversely, on the Groucho Marx principle of not wanting to join a club that would accept members like him, there is the feeling that a person who loves you can't be worth loving.
Miss Manners tries hard to sympathize with this state of affairs as a necessary part of social development. She understands that the stage of life devoted to "How am I doing?" is a necessary prelude to the more interesting (to her, anyway) stage of "What do I want to accomplish?" She cannot, however, help wanting to alleviate gloom and despair when she sees it. And there is an awful lot of it to be seen in the love lives of young adults.
For one's own relief, she advises examining the state of one's affections in terms of the pattern she has described. Sometimes that helps in allowing the lovelorn to recognize and seek freedom from an unrewarding relationship. Does the loved one have any quality to offer other than that paradoxically compelling one of rejection? Admittedly, this is not an easy cure, but it might help along the development of that maturity that leads to romantic happiness. A sure cure is only promised to those with the nerve to reverse the chain, and begin acting superior to the one who has been doing it to you. If everyone did that, the entire chain would be flipped.
That piece of advice, which Miss Manners doesn't expect anyone but the most daring to try, uses up Miss Manners' sympathy, and she has none left for the meanness with which people in the same stage treat their own admirers. There, a realization of the pattern also helps; it is possible that a perfectly nice person has the misfortune to admire you. Believe that or not, however, it is necessary -- not to return such affections; the gift of romantic love cannot ever presume to create an obligation in kind -- to be polite to those so afflicted. They may, upon mature reflection, turn out to be not so completely devoid of taste as you had supposed.uch as senator) may be retained.
After you call your friend "senator," be sure to tell him that government standards have seriously eroded since he left office. They like that.