What happens to people who actually follow Miss Manners' advice?She presumes that they all live happily ever after. It is, after all, a rather simple recipe for happiness to find out the correct thing to do and then do it. Why others fuss around, doing the wrong thing and then indulging in such unamusing and unattractive emotions as guilt and remorse, she cannot imagine.
"Do you remember," inquires a Gentle Reader, "advising that people in search of nice people of the sex opposite should not confine their attention to dens of propinquity -- bars, ski lodges and the town hot tub -- but should take part in a spectrum of activities and associate with persons of both sexes and all ages?"
Certainly. Do go on.
"I was attending a club function recently and, rather than chatting up the young men who were present, I spoke to a woman of my mother's age whom I had always found intelligent and interesting. She suddenly asked whether I was married. When I said I wasn't, she replied, 'I don't want to offend you, but . . . '
"My mind leaped to the conclusion that one of those officiously personal remarks, which are regrettably so common today, was about to follow.
"But: 'I have a 34-year-old son, 6 feet 3 inches tall . . . ' Miss Manners, I didn't know how to tell her that that is not the sort of thing I take offense at.
"Of course, I went out with him when he called me at her instigation. A woman who may become your mother-in-law and already likes you is a gem not to be passed over lightly.
"He and I are seeing each other, growing to be friends. One day passion may even strike, taking us, of course, by surprise.
"Here is the moral of my story: Circulate, be considerate and interested in everyone, not just eligible young men, and your reward will be -- eligible young men. Seriously, there are many nice, lonely people in this world. Talk to their relatives and friends, and they'll find them for you."
Well. Miss Manners could not have said it better herself, although actually she did, didn't she?
Another reader has recognized herself in a Gentle Reader's horrified complaint of being admonished publicly by an acquaintance not to eat a fattening dessert.
Explaining that she herself had lost 50 pounds after 25 years of being overweight and "wanted to share my success," she adds, "I'm over 50 and would not deliberately hurt anyone. I cried half the night, and I wish you would let me apologize through this column and ask her to forgive me."
Done. Penitents are always welcome.
Then there is the lady who has taken up Miss Manners' pronouncement that the family dinner table is the cornerstone of civilization, and that those who "graze" from refrigerators or in front of television sets are doomed to remain in a state of savagery.
At least, that is what Miss Manners concludes from her story about visiting friends "who lived in a beautiful house with every luxury, including a fine dining room that was rarely used. Their teen-age children never sat with us -- they dished up plates and carried them to the basement 'rec room' to watch TV or drove downtown for hamburgers. The children had never eaten with the family. They were tongue-tied, unable to converse with anyone out of their own age group, and to this day I have trouble even remembering their names."
Miss Manners' slight uncertainty about full agreement is because the same reader relates how "my own mother, although we lived in my childhood on a remote Montana ranch, always set a proper table . . . We appeared at table three times daily, with freshly washed faces and hands, and waited our turn to be served.
"Often we had unexpected guests -- lonely range riders (never called cowboys) would come by for a drink of water and be invited to dine; sheepherders who parked their covered wagons nearby, city folk, engineers and their wives, government geologists and scientists -- all were given an equal welcome at our table.
"Once, when my mother was alone with us children at the ranch, a man came through with a load of fresh beef en route to market. She let him feed his horses and eat with us, then gave him a room for the night in the bunkhouse. He paid for the grain and hay, and brought in fresh steak for our supper from the load.
"It later developed that he was a cattle rustler and had several murders to his credit. He was killed in a shoot-out down on the Missouri River two years later. His table manners were impeccable. Mother said she did take the unusual precaution of locking the doors, however."
Yes, well, uh. The moral of that one is . . .
Q: I am a successful, very attractive, warmhearted yuppie, with many male associates and acquaintances who eventually become friends or candidates for a closer relationship. Quite often, some of these men confide in me about women in their lives whom they hope to attract as lovers, seeking my advice or sympathy.
I find this boring when the man is one I wish to maintain merely as a friend or acquaintance, and disturbingly "desexing" when I have hope of a closer relationship.
Would it be rude or in poor taste to say something like, "Excuse me if I seem to be inattentive, but when a man enjoying my company starts speaking about other women in his life, I find it boring and sexually diminishing, and so simply turn off"?
A: Yes, and it doesn't do much to demonstrate how warmhearted, etc., you are, either.
You do that by saying, "Oh, dear," with a sigh, as you look soulfully into the gentleman's eyes, "I'm the last person to advise you -- a hopeless romantic like me. I try so hard to keep my own heart under control, but . . . " Then refuse to explain what you mean, leaving him to wonder whether you are referring to someone else or to himself. That should pep things up considerably.