DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are those paid newspaper announcements of weddings, engagements, etc., proper? I seem to recall something about a lady having her name in the paper only twice -- when she was born and when she died.
GENTLE READER: Thrice. Marriage, as well as birth and death -- but only one of each -- are the traditional occasions on which a lady is expected to undergo the pain of public scrutiny. Miss Manners, however, is in no position to criticize those who exceed their limits.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I have recently discovered, to our great surprise, that we are expecting a baby. As both of us are still in college and not financially (or emotionally) able to provide for our child, we are looking into adoption as the best, though most difficult, decision for our baby.
My question involves when and how it is appropriate to reveal that we are expecting. This is a very unplanned pregnancy, and our families and friends will be shocked, even upset and angry. I work in a gossipy office, and I know that my pregnancy will eventually become obvious.
Is it appropriate to tell people that I am pregnant, and how should we communicate nicely to people that we are giving up our child for adoption? I know many people would extend good wishes and congratulations before the news, but how do we respond pleasantly about what is a personal and painful decision, particularly when people express regret or inquire about our reasons for this decision?
GENTLE READER: There was a time when a lady in your situation would have been secluded during her pregnancy and the entire situation hushed up. And while Miss Manners is aware that all right-thinking people are horrified at what they consider the narrow and punitive way of thinking this betrays, you might consider a modified version, strictly for reasons of privacy outside of your most intimate circle.
Consider the number of intrusive statements that routine pregnancies bring on nowadays, from "You shouldn't be putting on so much weight" to "Haven't you heard of overpopulation?" Once you open your situation to discussion, there will be no possibility of avoiding outrageous questions, unsolicited advice and ungenerous opinions, which will be extremely painful.
Your families will have to be told, of course, and you may want to confide in a friend or two, but take care to tell them all of your plans at once, so as to avoid false hopes. While you cannot avoid hearing their reactions, you can minimize these by repeating, "Yes, we've considered that, but we've come to the conclusion that this is best for us all."
You may also be unable to take the time off from work, in which case people will undoubtedly weigh in as soon as your pregnancy is obvious. Miss Manners suggests countering congratulations and curiosity with, "Thank you, but I'm afraid there are complications," and making it clear that you will not enter into a discussion.
They will find out what happens, of course. You may even designate someone to tell them when you are on maternity leave so that you do not face a barrage when you return. But by that time, you will have a reputation as someone who does not countenance discussion of her personal life. Miss Manners assures you that that is an excellent reputation to have.