Considering what the people involved in weddings seem to think of one another, Miss Manners cannot imagine why these events are held at all.
In theory, of course, the bride and bridegroom are excessively fond of each other; both sets of parents are deeply moved by their happiness, as well as gratified to mark the extension of their family circle; other relatives are also vicariously happy; close friends are especially glowing with reflected pleasure; and all guests are animated by the very presence of romance.
What a delightful babble all this ought to produce.
It is not, however, what Miss Manners hears from such people.
She hears from bridal couples who demand the right to ignore the wishes and tastes of their parents, to exclude the parental social circle and to blackball relatives from the event. In the very process of forming a new family unit, they want to make clear that previously formed parts of the family structure are of no importance to them whatsoever.
She hears from parents who consider that their own marital failures are the key drama of the occasion. Working against the natural optimism on which weddings are built, each seeks to sabotage the spirit by finding ways to use the wedding to humiliate the other and any subsequent spouses the other may have acquired.
She hears from relatives who disapproved of the form of the courtship. While these people claim that they believe a couple should have married before enjoying what used to be considered marital privileges, they nevertheless fail to express satisfaction -- or relief -- that the marriage is about to take place. Instead, they wish to invoke social pressure to prevent the couple from having a gala wedding rather than one with a somewhat punitive air to it.
She hears from close friends who are only interested in the supporting roles of the bridal party and are unhappy because they were included and dislike the conditions or because they were not included and feel they should have been.
She hears from guests of all ages who regard the event solely as a social opportunity and claim the right to bring whatever company they think might best entertain them, whether or not such people have any interest in or even acquaintance with the couple whose wedding it is.
And she hears from everybody about money -- family members claiming power on the basis of their financial contributions, guests resenting spending money on finery and presents, bridal couples complaining that not enough was spent and that whatever will be spent on them will be misspent unless they take control of it.
All this is just what is said before the wedding. Afterward, we start all over with complaints about what everybody wore and did and failed to do.
Miss Manners has long been dealing with these problems as they came along, urging patience and restraint, family feeling and tolerance.
She has repeatedly begged people to perform simple duties -- answering invitations, writing thank-you letters -- the omission of which causes so much irritation.
She has accorded the bridal couple the central drama of the occasion, taking precedence over the past marriages and present hopes of others, which should not be allowed to interfere with it. But she has denied the bridal couple the right to make unilateral social rulings without regard to the wishes and preferences of their families.
She has even had to beg people to emphasize feelings over money. But at that point, or perhaps it was because of the accumulation of all these problems, she got fed up.
All right, then. If you can only think of weddings in terms of your own grievances and greed, keep away from them.
If you are a potential guest, you would just be a blight anyway. If it wouldn't give you pleasure to witness the couple's wedding, all you need do is politely decline the invitation. There is no further obligation.
And if you were thinking of getting married with those attitudes, don't. You are obviously not suited for domestic life.
Q. I decided to change careers a couple of years ago. Actually I tired of my job in television.
To this day, people constantly are asking me why I'm not on TV any more and if I'm planning to return to my former career. They are very persistent, usually amazed that anyone would leave such a glamorous job (little do they know).
How does one say, "It's none of your business" without being rude or leaving the impression I was fired? I don't want to discuss personal career plans with everyone in town.
A. This is a particular subdivision of the general problem of the nosy question, in which people one hardly knows demand reasons for how one conducts one's life.
The difference here is that they probably consider being on television to be the ultimate achievement in life and are actually stretching their imaginations to figure out why anyone would leave.
The answer to all job questions one does not wish to answer is, "I enjoyed it when I did it, but eventually I needed a change -- something more challenging." This is worded so as not to insult the job one has left, but merely to suggest that an active mind needs to keep learning.
If, in your case, the answer is met with some stupefaction, that is not your fault. Just keep repeating some version of it to persistent people until they grasp that the height of their ambition is something you have gone beyond. At that point, they will shut up.