DEAR MISS MANNERS: For decades now, I have loaned books to friends and family for them to enjoy and, eventually, return. I have always loved to read, and I count as my friends dozens of people who also love to read.
In the past several years, I have realized that some of these friends have not been returning the books. When I politely inquired of them whether they had finished with the book, I have received puzzling replies.
One told me that she liked it so much she had loaned the book to her mother, who had taken it back to Florida with her. Another insisted that the books had already been returned, and then admitted that they might have been swept up into a box of books destined for the church rummage sale. Others have simply said they haven't finished reading it yet, over a year since it was borrowed, and have not returned it. One promised to purchase the books at a used bookstore for me, but has not actually done so. I don't think this will happen, as the promise was made over a month ago.
These are friends that I have borrowed books from myself, but I actually return their books to them.
I so enjoy reading that I am reluctant to refuse my friends' requests for lending of books on the grounds of probable future larceny. If I did so, I doubt that they would take it well. With one of them, I refused to loan a book on the grounds that I was not finished with it, and have received some argument and evident hurt feelings in return. Still, I have not been able to come up with an appropriate way of dealing with these petty crimes.
Should I simply attempt to find better friends? Have the rules for book borrowing changed? I had considered loaning them some of your books, as a delicate hint, but was afraid they would either not get the hint or not return the books. Please help.
GENTLE READER: When you find that better class of friends, who not only appreciate literature but return it promptly, kindly introduce them to Miss Manners. She has a few volumes missing from her own library.
Unfortunately, she also has a volume or two that may not be her own property, languishing in her very tall "To Read" stack. So, although politeness demands that a borrowed book be speedily read and returned, she hesitates to declare that violating this rule is a clear indication of bad character.
This does not mean that she countenances the failure to return a book eventually, or whenever asked, which you must learn to do firmly, by saying merely "I'm afraid I need it now." Scofflaws should be stricken from your lending list, along with that dreadful person who took offense at your reading your own book instead of handing it over to her. But the merely careless should be alerted to the fact that both new and used books are easier to find, now that they are listed on the Internet, and given a chance to redeem themselves.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I made a blunder by going out with a friend, and as one thing lead to another, I ended up kissing and caressing her. I thought she was into it but then she suddenly got up and abruptly ended it all.
I apologized for what happened. But she said I have taken advantage of her. I said I didn't. My only probable reason to her was that I got carried away by the romantic notion of the encounter. I felt very bad for my actions, and I could feel her cold and unenthusiastic response when I called her, unlike before. I want to make amends and hope we can be friends again. I am married with no children. Miss Manners, what would be your advice?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners' advice is for you to keep your hands off the telephone and everything else. Otherwise, the next advice you seek should be on the legal, rather than the etiquette, aspect of your behavior.