DEAR MISS MANNERS: A guest, who, like me, is a middle-aged bachelor (well, I am perhaps a tad beyond middle age, but never mind that) returned this summer -- essentially homeless after many years out of the country -- to undergo surgeries from which he is now recovering. He does not require in-home medical assistance, but is under doctor's orders to avoid his usual athletic activities for a while, and he cannot drive now.
Some of my female friends have been kind enough to assist him with transportation to and from hospital appointments, or to bring him meals they have cooked or invite him to dinner. Last week, one of them confided to me that she has developed romantic feelings for him. It is clear to me that one of the other women also feels this way.
In conversations with me, my guest has repeatedly brought up the subject of his numerous failed relationships with -- and less than entirely generous view of -- women. He told me he has therefore sworn off women, but some of his actions suggest otherwise.
Should I mention any of this to these two women? Under what circumstances, if any, beyond their asking directly what I know about his life or my thoughts about why they might or might not find him a good match? So far they have only asked me how the two of us are getting along in my small apartment, to which I just reply, OK.
I'd be very happy for either of them to find Mr. JustRight-or-Mr. CloseEnough. At the same time, I don't want to contribute by silence to any scenes of heartbreak.
I've discussed some pretty personal matters with these two women. They both helped me while I was hospitalized and then briefly homebound after a stroke. But they do not know one another and apparently do not know that they have any specific competition for my guest's attention. (I've never had a romantic connection with either of these two women, nor am I hoping for that.)
If one woman asks me directly, I will tell her what I know. I suspect I will then feel a duty to tell the other woman, too. Does etiquette offer any guide, whether to speak out in this latter situation?
GENTLE READER: There are instances, Miss Manners can imagine, in which etiquette-verging-on-ethics would leave you torn between discretion about repeating a confidence and supplying vital information to those in danger.
If you knew that your houseguest was an ax-murderer who got off on a technicality, you would have to inform your enamored friends. If you knew he had a communicable disease, you should feel obligated to warn them.
This is not such a case. There is no secret to reveal. Swearing off romance means exactly nothing, as you already know from your friend's actions. People routinely swear off romance until they meet someone of romantic interest.
But it can serve as a challenge to others. If you mention to a lady that this gentleman has been unlucky in love and has therefore sworn off romance, she will conclude that the poor fellow's problem is not having yet considered romance with her.
(Why this is, Miss Manners cannot say. But she knows that the sure way to discourage romance is to announce that the person is actively looking for it.)
You might as well stand back and watch what happens, secure in the knowledge that it will happen regardless.