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Diaper call is out of line

Dear Miss Manners: Please don't think I am being vulgar, but I need the solution to an unfortunate problem.

In a large gathering that includes children, someone inevitably passes gas. All the adults in the group immediately drop everything and lunge around, checking each child's pants and demanding to know who needs a clean diaper. It usually happens more than once, and obviously interrupts the flow of conversation and leads to embarrassment.

The worst example is a childless and keen-nosed lady of my acquaintance who persists in interrogating each of my children in turn, trying to track down the source of any odor. Meanwhile, the (adult) perpetrator squirms in embarrassment and waits for normal conversation to resume.

What's the solution, Miss Manners? Must someone finally make a shameful confession? Announce "Excuse me"? Should we pin the blame on one of the children and say, "Little Roy has had terrible gas all day"?

My sister just says, "Oh, that dog smells awful," but we don't have a dog. And in any case, I would prefer not to have to discuss body functions at all. Don't polite people overlook this issue altogether? What do you recommend?

Gentle Reader: That you all stop making a conspicuous game out of this, tempting a nonplayer to go for the championship.

It is true that the freelance interrogator is impolite, so as not to say a bit revolting; the passing of gas should go unmentioned. But you should be teaching manners to your children, not your contemporaries.

These children, who are old enough to be interrogated although young enough to be in diapers, are instead being taught that the contents of their diapers are of public interest. This is not a social habit that will endear them to others.

Miss Manners suggests that you begin practicing, as well as teaching, discretion. Instead of all the parents sniffing around like a bunch of hounds on the trail of a fox, each should quietly ask any of their own children who are under suspicions if they and you "need to be excused." This is the phrase the child should learn to use as you encourage him or her to volunteer the predicament to you without calling more attention to it than nature already has.

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All brides may wear white

Dear Miss Manners: I am engaged to a wonderful man, finally after three bad ones. One, the father of my two children, was from a different culture and we did not see eye to eye at all, one was a closet homosexual, and one a wife batterer. YEASH!

I know my fiance is my Mr. Right, as we have been living together now for three years. (If I had lived with the others before marriage it would have been over as soon as they showed their true colors.)

Anyway, my dilemma is this: Brides usually wear white or some shade of off white, cream or champagne. What color is acceptable for this situation? We will not have a large traditional wedding but a casual, island style, beachfront ceremony. I was thinking along the lines of a soft off-white feminine tea length dress in a natural fabric like cotton or muslin.

Gentle Reader: The notion that the color of the bride's dress advertises the, ah, state of her body, has fortunately gone its vulgar way. Miss Manners' opinion of that way of thinking was always -- YEASH! So enjoy your soft, off-white, etc., dress and best wishes to you.

Console mother in person

Dear Miss Manners: My stepfather recently passed away, is it proper for me to send a sympathy card to my mother? They were married when I was 21 and were married for 28 years.

Gentle Reader: A card? Your mother lost her husband, and all you are suggesting in the way of comforting her is to send a card?

Miss Manners is aware that an industry exists that assures people that its canned messages are caring and even -- in commercial doublespeak -- personal.

No -- personal is still done personally. If you cannot visit your mother, you can at least telephone and write. If you have pleasant memories of your stepfather, this is the time to share them; but even if you don't, you can listen respectfully to hers and assure her that you feel for her and are ready to help in adjustments she might have to make in her living arrangements.