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Miss Manners: Because you are smitten, ask around

Mon., April 29, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a gentleman in my 20s and work in a large office building. I am absolutely smitten (!) by a most angelic young lady who also works in the building. We cross paths in the lobby at least weekly and exchange repeated glances and smiles.

Unfortunately, I know nothing about her except that we work for different employers, so getting a proper introduction seems impossible. I know from reading your column that a gentleman wouldn’t try to pick up a stranger in public, nor would a lady respond to such an overture.

However, in such a situation, isn’t it permissible for a lady to “accidentally” drop her handkerchief in the gentleman’s direction, he picks it up and offers it back, thus giving these two strangers a legitimate reason to engage in conversation? If so, is there a similar maneuver that a gentleman may use?

Did I mention I am absolutely smitten (!)? I know you don’t dispense dating advice, but I would really appreciate your help here.

GENTLE READER: You remind Miss Manners of an Ogden Nash poem about a gentleman who devised a plan for learning the identity of a beautiful stranger, the girl of his dreams, whom he saw on the street.

He reasoned that if he chased her down with his car and ran her over, “gently … with one wheel, say, certainly with no more than two,” he would be able to read her name and address the next day in the newspaper.

And so he did. That day, her address turned out to be Mercy Hospital. And when he presented himself there, it did not go well.

From this we learn: no accidents.

As for dropping things, Miss Manners doubts whether the handkerchief trick would work today. Do any ladies besides herself actually use handkerchiefs nowadays?

Ladies are not expected to pick up objects that gentlemen drop, but perhaps if you let your wallet fall, your dream girl might call it to your attention, and you could thank her so profusely as to start a conversation.

Would it be too easy for you to ask around if anyone you know knows her?

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