DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 40 years old, and by a series of unfortunate events and three broken engagements in the past two decades, still a single woman. This is not necessarily a status that I celebrate.
I am accepting of it for now, but I would like people to understand that I do not come to this place in my life by choice. The common misconceptions are that I am either much too picky or that I somehow enjoy being a free, single woman. Neither is true. Only my close friends understand how painful it is for me to be alone at this stage of my life.
At weddings, I just dread having to dodge yet another "throwing of the bouquet" tradition, where it seems everyone at the reception thinks it's fun to shove any single female, including toddlers, out on the dance floor to battle for that "prize."
At what point do they realize that I don't want to bring attention to the fact that I'm single? The tragedy and embarrassment of it for me has long outlived the original ceremonial spirit of this youthful custom.
GENTLE READER: That you find this custom silly and dislike being pushed into it, Miss Manners can understand. But that is the only thing you have stated that she does understand.
Why should you be embarrassed to be single? But since you are embarrassed, why do you object to people thinking that you enjoy your life? And why would you not want it known that you are single when attending a social event where there might be eligible gentlemen?
However, Miss Manners' job is to answer the question. If you are pushed forward, take the hand of one of those toddlers --whose presence incidentally shows that no one but you takes this seriously -- and help her catch the bouquet.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For my daughter's birthday, we take her to the state fair and let her select what she wants to eat and what she wants to do (to some extent), and a close friend or two to enjoy the day with.
My husband and I feel that letting her do something special that she enjoys celebrates her birthday better than a party and avoids the traditional birthday-party problems.
However, my parents and my husband's parents are appalled by the idea. They say it's not "special" enough for our daughter, and that the point of a party is so they can partake in celebrating.
We have invited them to participate in our birthday plans, but the idea of walking around the fair is unappealing to them and they refuse to come. They insist that we throw a big bash for our daughter so they can indulge her with presents and attention.
Is there a way to break off this standoff? Should we throw a party for our daughter so her grandparents can have their wishes? Or is it enough that we celebrate her birthday in a way that we, and our daughter, enjoy?
GENTLE READER: Have you expressed your delight that the grandparents want to do something special for your daughter?
Of course you should not dream of depriving her of the annual treat she enjoys with you. But what should prevent the grandparents from giving her another celebration?
Miss Manners trusts that they have the will and the energy to cope with those traditional birthday-party problems -- such as choosing between overcrowding and hurting those left out, nagging guests to respond, figuring out what will amuse everyone and so on.