DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am an aspiring street magician. I have very much enjoyed the idea of public performance since I was very young. However, I must admit I am a socially awkward individual at times, due in part to being overly cautious of social niceties.
Once I have taken to performing on the streets, how would you recommend I approach potential observers, if at all? I simply must know!
GENTLE READER: That is not a calling for the timid, Miss Manners would think, nor for anyone who is easily discouraged. Yet it could bring you the satisfaction of seeing that your talents have brought a bit of brightness to others.
There is a great deal of competition out there, although not exactly from people who want to entertain. Others who are selling, begging or recruiting for a cause may be competing for the attention of passers-by -- many of whom have learned to plow through the streets with their heads down to avoid being targeted.
So beyond meeting whatever requirements and restrictions your city has in order to permit you to perform in public, you must appear to be giving, rather than asking. Miss Manners would think that if you perform your tricks as if you are having a merry time simply amusing yourself, and yet shoot a mischievous smile at anyone who turns your way, you will capture their attention through charm.
But then, perhaps you should ask a professional. Miss Manners has never worked the streets.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband died of lung cancer last September. He was 55 and very healthy until the cancer took over; he died 11 months later. My problem is with people who hear what my husband died of and then shout out how many years they have been cancer-free, totally ignoring my loss to talk about their victory.
I know ex-patients are encouraged to talk about their survival, but it's galling to be subjected to it over and over. What can I say to make them understand their rants about their success hurt without my being rude?
GENTLE READER: Do those who encourage ex-patients to talk about their survival -- or who follow such advice -- consider taking other people's feelings into account? Apparently not, among the people you have unfortunately encountered.
Miss Manners trusts that you would not be so cruel as to tell them about people who had recurrences of cancer after as many years, much as they have invited such talk. Rather, she suggests that you say tersely, "Congratulations. My husband was not so fortunate."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I recently became engaged. It is the first marriage for me at age 48. In thinking over a guest list, which I would like to remain intimate, I realize that many of my close female friends have boyfriends or husbands I have rarely or never met. Am I obligated to invite these partners to the wedding?
GENTLE READER: Only if you also omit the bridegroom, on the grounds that people who have rarely or never met him would not care to be in his company just because you happen to be marrying him.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)