DEAR MISS MANNERS: While shopping in a retail outlet recently, I happened to notice a $20 bill very close to falling out of the back pocket of an attractive young woman in line in front of me. I chose to do nothing, not sure how to alert her of her possible loss without also tipping her off that my eyes had been wandering where they should probably not have been.
How should I handle this dilemma should I encounter it again in the future?
GENTLE READER: If you would raise your gaze, it wouldn't occur. But then you would not be able to rescue shoppers from costly carelessness.
Miss Manners is guessing that the lady would have been flustered enough at the danger and grateful enough to be told about it that she would not speculate about how -- or rather, where -- you happened to notice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The family and friends are scattered all over the globe. The parental home is long gone, and the parents are far-flung. The prospect of gathering them all together for a wedding seems daunting, and, well, perhaps superfluous in these days of visa difficulties, unpleasant air travel and carbon emissions concerns.
I have been reading old novels about very small weddings followed by a wedding trip to visit all the relatives and connections, and have been wondering how to organize such an arrangement properly.
We could take each of those we visit out to a fine dinner, at a restaurant chosen by them, in lieu of the big central reception-dinner-music combo. Or, depending on their taste, to a local concert, or a circus for the small children.
Is this plan too far beyond current custom to be countenanced in today's etiquette?
Should the couple just get quietly married by a local divine, attended by two namelesss witnesses, and travel to visit all the distant families and friends, followed by a reception at home for those who live nearby? Do we send out announcements or just handwritten notes telling people that we would like to come and see them?
GENTLE READER: This is a intriguing idea, in keeping with Miss Manners' predilection for making the past work for the present.
But it is not a familiar idea, and you do not want your relatives to fear that you are excluding them from a splashy wedding and then plan to live happily ever after as roving houseguests.
Miss Manners recommends writing each of them a letter -- not an e-mail, which is insufficiently formal, and would create suspicion as to its being some kind of scheme; nor an announcement, which is overly formal, and would appear to be some sort of summons.
The letter should explain that because you are being married privately, you wish to have an old-fashioned wedding tour to introduce each other to your respective relatives and friends. It should then propose dates when you might visit, state where you will be staying and inquire where you may treat them to dinner or another outing.
Miss Manners regrets the need to make it explicit that you do not intend to be a burden on them, but we live in cynical times.