DEAR MISS MANNERS: I wrote a novel several years ago and submitted it to many agents and publishers, but it was never accepted for publication. When I reread my work now, I'm embarrassed at its poor quality and amazed that I ever considered it to be good enough to be published. It's the only piece I've written, and I've since stopped writing altogether.
When I meet up with friends that I haven't seen in a long while, they often inquire whether my work was published and whether they can read it. I am embarrassed to show them the manuscript, but they are offended if I refuse. Is there any polite way of refusing their requests without admitting to how badly written it is?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners suspects your friends of having ulterior motives. In her experience, everyone in the world is writing a novel, even if it never quite gets to the paperwork stage, and nothing except love and self-sacrifice can get anyone to read someone else's novel in manuscript form, no matter how fervently they beg.
She therefore concludes that your friends are trying to lure you into their debt so they can force you to read their own manuscripts. If you were to answer the question simply by asking another one -- "Have you ever thought of writing a novel?" -- the conversation would probably never get back to yours. Or you could agree to house each other's manuscripts for a decent amount of time before returning them with vague praise.
Of course you can also just say, "It's not ready to be read yet, and I'm not sure it ever will be." But Miss Manners is afraid that would defeat your purpose, as it would make you sound like a professional writer who hasn't managed to get down to work.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I've been dating a successful man for a few months. The problem? When we go out to dinner or lunch, he orders only one plate and tells the waiter this is enough for now, but we may want to order more food. Which means he expects me to "share" his plate.
The first time, I wasn't really too hungry, so I was all right with it, but into the fourth dinner date I noticed that this is the way he is. He will also tell me to order a drink, and I notice he enjoys "sharing" this, too.
I can afford my own lunch, dinner or drinks, so I'm not going and expecting him to pay, but what do I say? And do I have the right to feel funny about this?
P.S. He also has the habit of handing me a soda can or coffee cup that has only the very end left and telling me to "go ahead and finish it." Yuck!
GENTLE READER: How many more half-dinner dates is it going to take to convince you that this courtship is going nowhere?
It is not even so much the question of whether you can stomach eating his leftovers and letting him nibble away at yours as it is whether you can stomach him. If that "Yuck!" answers the question in Miss Manners' mind, surely it should give you a hint.