DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the past, while dating a potential suitor, I would not consider dating anyone else concurrently and would politely rebuff others' advances.
Due to, shall we say, a convergence of the stars, I find myself dating two different gentlemen whose company I find equally enjoyable. Granted, it has only been about two months, but both gentlemen have intimated that they enjoy my company and would like to continue to do so. While there have not been any problems yet, I feel slightly dishonest by not informing the beaux of each other's existence.
I fear they might, at some point in the future, feel slighted to learn that I am not dating them exclusively. The only reference I seem to be able to draw on is that of Scarlett O'Hara, with her multiple suitors, and this image does not comfort me.
I must say, though, that my unaccustomed situation has had the benefit of slowing the rate of becoming romantically involved with either gentleman. In the past, I have found myself swept up in the romance, and have offered my heart up too soon.
What is the etiquette of dating multiple people at the same time? Could you please give me some guidelines to prevent hurt feelings and wounded hearts?
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners correctly understands your allusion to restraint in offering your heart, then you are doing nothing wicked. She hopes this does not put a damper on the excitement, replacing the damper of your unnecessary uneasiness.
Excitement is what dating was originally intended to provide. When this custom was replaced by successions of temporary intimacies, they had to be exclusive so as not to be promiscuous. But a gentleman should not presume that he has exclusive access to a lady who is merely dating him unless they have agreed on such terms.
Miss Manners regrets to tell you, however, that there is no system of romance, and never has been, that eliminates the risk of hurt feelings and wounded hearts.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whenever I visit my parents, my father is apt to say something like "Isn't this soup great?" Meanwhile, I'm thinking it's the blandest tasting soup I've ever eaten. Or he may say something like "What do you think of our new sofa?" and I know he wants me to exclaim how wonderful it is, when I may not feel that way. Would you have a recommendation on how to handle these situations?
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners points out that the proper answers to these questions are "Umm, great," she supposes she will be accused of fostering dishonesty. People who may think nothing of falsifying their tax returns and making up excuses to get out of jury duty consider it a sin not to treat everyone to their negative opinions.
But your father was not really asking for a critique of his taste in food and furniture. His subtext is a plea for you to affirm that you find the place pleasant to visit. Does your conscience prevent you from gratifying this modest paternal wish?