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One Person’s Romance Is Another’s Pain

Judith Martin United Features Sy

A dedicated young teacher has been regaling her young students for months with the details of her upcoming wedding.

When they clamor to know when it will be, she explains that she doesn’t know the exact date, because her fiance’s divorce isn’t yet final. But she wants them to know that whenever it is, they will all be invited and may get to meet her new stepdaughter, just their age, who she is hoping will agree to be the flower girl.

In an article celebrating his wife’s professional success, a proud husband reminisces about their courtship:

“The minute I saw her, I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with…. Late in the evening I walked right up to her and said, ‘You don’t know me, but some day, you’re going to marry me.’

“I had heard about this brilliant student from my then-wife and her colleagues, but I had expected somebody drab and humorless and was totally unprepared for this dazzling creature. And I was determined not to let her get away.

“Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. She refused to believe that I was serious. (She was in counseling with the man she was married to at that time and, to her credit, she didn’t think it would be fair.) But now, after five blissful years together and two beautiful children, we are celebrating our third wedding anniversary, and I think she has to admit I was right.”

A stricken mourner ends his eulogy to his friend by looking at the widow in the front row and saying, “All of us here who cared about him are grateful to you for those last years, when thanks to you, he finally found happiness.

“He had had much success in his life, and many professional honors. But he told me that he had never known the joys of love until you came along and lit up his life in ways he had never dreamed possible. Your time with him was cut tragically short, but you will always know that you gave him the happiest years of his life.”

He then steps down for the next speaker, who is the daughter of the deceased from his previous marriage. She is there to speak on behalf of his grown-up children and grandchildren.

Miss Manners is a sentimental pushover and enjoys a good love story as much as the next person. She is even old enough to be less interested in stories of youthful romance than in happy endings for people who have been once or twice around the block, as we used to say.

But she finds these public renderings of modern love stories to be in wretched taste.

In exalting their own tender feelings, people who recount these modern love stories as if they were the less complicated traditional ones are amazingly oblivious of other people’s tender feelings.

An educator should know that today’s schoolchildren, no matter how young, know about families breaking up. Even if they haven’t been through it themselves, they have seen enough to make them fearful. As with the reluctant flower girl, their interest in the romantic festivities of adults is crushed by a realization of the child’s position.

In general, the public may not care whether a story that ends happily ever after began during marriages that didn’t. But the other parties to those earlier marriages do mind being publicly treated as impediments to true love.

Most especially, the children of earlier marriages don’t care to hear that they came from loveless unions, in spite of knowing that the love did not last. Even grown-ups who are sophisticated enough to understand how romantic histories are routinely falsified in the light of subsequent romances find the idea painful.

Miss Manners does not grudge triumphant lovers their happiness and private rejoicing. She only asks them to refrain from fashioning their irregular courtships into fairy tale romances that represent other people’s nightmares.

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

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