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Find Smallest Degree Of Separation

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: As a young, never married woman, I am writing for suggestions on how I might receive an introduction to a young single gentleman I have admired for some time.

Because he plays on a local professional sports team and is considered to be quite a celebrity and one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, he is besieged by women, young and old. I do not want to be one of them. I was raised by old-fashioned parents who taught me to behave with decorum.

I desire to meet this young man not as a fan - I am not interested in obtaining autographs, photos or anything else equally as base - but as a young woman who is interested in him as an individual with opinions, values, hopes and dreams. He appears to be extremely intelligent, articulate and conservative - qualities that are important to me and that are becoming more and more difficult to find.

I had thought that perhaps a letter of introduction to his parents, who also live in the area, would be a good start, but who could write it? We do not have mutual acquaintances. Could I write the letter myself, or would this be gauche? What other method would you recommend?

Gentle Reader: You want to be a quaint, old-fashioned, ladylike groupie? And you expect Miss Manners to tell you how?

Just a minute while she checks her job description.

Yes, it does say here that she deals with social introductions. It even says that she specifically deals with letters of introduction. All right, here goes:

You are astute in guessing that a much sought-after public figure would be more likely to respect a lady he met through his parents than one who stormed his dressing room. (Whether respect will inspire love is something else, but you can’t expect Miss Manners to do everything for you.)

Yet it is extremely difficult to compose a letter of introduction for yourself. What would it say? “I have the highest regard for the bearer of this letter and am sure you will cherish her acquaintance as much as I do”?

It is always possible to discover some sort of line of connection, especially among people living in the same town. Since the excellent play, “Six Degrees of Separation,” people have been making a parlor sport out of figuring out chains of connections between unlikely people.

Once you have found someone you know who can introduce you to someone who can introduce you to someone who knows the parents, you will, of course, do everything you can to charm them and become friends. And then one day you will inquire, “Do you have children?”

When they tell you about their son, you will exclaim, “Really! Well, if he’s on that team, I must have seen him play! I’m sorry I don’t recognize his name - I do like to watch sports, but I don’t follow the personalities. How interesting that your son should be a professional athlete. Any son of yours must be very bright, so I suppose he’s enjoying doing this while he’s young and planning a more serious career afterward.”

Never mind that they might bristle. They will certainly repeat it to him, and it will certainly be different from what he usually hears.

And when they reflect on it, they will realize that you are the answer to their prayers. Miss Manners hopes you will live up to this if you also turn out to be the answer to the gentleman’s prayers.

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

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