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Nonintervention Best Policy Here

Dear Miss Manners: I saw a normal-looking, well-dressed woman weeping in public a few weeks ago. After ascertaining that she was not physically ill, I reluctantly left her to her misery, rather than trying to find out why she was crying.

Did I do the right thing? Or should I have inquired into (and, if possible, tried to alleviate) the weeping woman’s sorrows? During my adult life, I have seen people crying in public several times, and a few of my friends have had similar experiences.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is all for compassion, so she wants to give this situation careful thought.

The lady was not injured or ill, and there seems to be no evidence of her being the victim of a crime. Presuming that she wasn’t crying over Little Nell, she could have suffered some sort of loss - a death, a broken romance or, as they now say, a downsizing on the part of her employer. Her tears could also have been a more generalized despair over her life, realistic or otherwise.

What are you going to do to alleviate the problem? Give her a job? Offer her your heart?

Miss Manners suspects not. What you are contemplating is “showing that someone cares” - simply saying you are sorry for her as you go on your way.

The trouble is that by doing this, you are also notifying the lady that she was making a public spectacle of herself. It seems to Miss Manners that the chance is slight of your delivering more comfort than the discomfort you may cause.

Miss Manners therefore invokes the rule for physical accidents: If you can’t be of help, don’t stick around and gawk at strangers’ troubles.

Dear Miss Manners: I really don’t want my 24-year-old daughter at my wedding. I feel as though she has no regard for me and in some sense would poison my special day.

We have not gotten along well since she turned 16. In fact, we didn’t speak for four of those years, and her whereabouts were unknown to me at that time.

In the past two years, despite the overtures I have made, she continues to express resentment and hostility toward me. She and my fiance have never met and she doesn’t know of him or our intentions.

If it is acceptable not to include her, what would be an appropriate way for me to handle this with her and my immediate family?

Gentle Reader: You are in luck: Miss Manners has an unassailable way for you to avoid inviting your daughter to your wedding. But you must promise to use this information politely, rather than to embarrass or criticize your daughter.

Traditionally, children were not expected to attend, much less be prominently featured at, their parents’ weddings.

One reason was that more people had children after than before they got married. But in cases of divorced parents, the idea was to spare them the (at best) mixed emotions of seeing a parent making a commitment to someone who, however much liked, is not the other parent. Miss Manners confesses to worrying about putting children on ceremonial display under such emotional circumstances.

This is hardly you or your daughter’s case. But you have Miss Manners’ permission to invoke this rule, anyway. If anyone asks why your daughter is not present, just say quietly, “Oh, I don’t think it’s appropriate to expect children to attend their parents’ weddings.”


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate