DEAR MISS MANNERS: At 58 and as a lifelong bachelor, I have finally found the person I wish to marry. She, I’m sure, feels the same. The issue is popping the question.
We live together in the Midwest, very near her family. We spend two weeks every year with my family in the East. I would like to ask her there, so I may immediately convey the Big News to my mother in person and share the delight I am certain she will feel.
I recognize that etiquette no longer requires I speak to my intended’s father first, but I wonder whether it is improper for me to ask at my convenience, and so deprive her of the pleasure of immediately informing her family in person. My hope is that the fact of the proposal will be enough for her.
Needless to say, I’m in no position to find out her thoughts on the matter. But I thought I might find out yours.
GENTLE READER: And yet Miss Manners has infinitely fewer personal feelings about the outcome than your potential betrothed. This lady will presumably have many --and thinking of her first would be a good way to set precedence for any future you may have with her.
A compromise might be to ask the father for her hand -- not as a means of consent, in this case, but as fair warning for the family, asking them not to spoil the surprise for your intended. This method also has the added benefit of being charming and subtly dismissive toward any question of your friend’s age and obvious independence from her parents.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a quiet, shy, introverted person, tend to have a slow response time, and don’t like to interrupt.
When in conversation with quick-witted, talkative people, I often don’t end up saying much. Which is fine, except when parting, the other person sometimes says, “I feel like I’ve done all the talking.”
I am always at a loss as to how to respond in a polite way, and, really, it makes me feel like a chump for not being more of a sparkling conversationalist. Help, please.
GENTLE READER: “Not at all. I enjoyed listening.” No doubt, rather than finding you boring, these conversationalists will find you all the more fascinating by being interested in them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A good friend’s sickly, elderly brother died in his sleep. We converse on a daily basis, so I found out relatively quickly. Another good friend of mine is also a mutual friend, but they only see each other a few times a year.
Should I tell my other friend about the death of the brother of our connected friend, or is it not my place to do so? Is it disrespectful to inform someone of a death before the family does?
In this particular case -- since the two friends don’t see each other that often -- it’s not likely that the deceased’s brother will see or contact our mutual friend in the near future.
GENTLE READER: Unlike good news, bad news is not generally something the principally affected person is eager to convey, Miss Manners finds. And certainly news of the deceased does not possess sole ownership. You may in good conscience tell your friend the news. And then it is up to him to convey condolences.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)