DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do you have any suggestions on how to announce to friends to stop taking tastes of my food and/or beverage?
One friend happily took her straw out of her drink and announced, "I'd like to taste that."
I responded, "Oh, I don't like people tasting my drinks or taking portions of my meal." She apologized.
Another time, another friend announced to the food server, "I am on a diet so I'll have a few of her fries."
I said to him, "Please order some because I don't like people picking from my plate."
I believe I am considered unfriendly or selfish by wanting them to eat their meals and let me eat my meal. One waitress brought two spoons with my dessert in case I wanted to "share." I returned the spoon to her.
One Sunday, a friend who attends many formal business lunches and dinners, so I assumed would have great manners, reached over and took one of the croutons from my salad and announced, "Not bad."
Two weeks later, he said, "Excuse me" and took a spoonful of my cappuccino and said, "Too sweet for me."
I don't need a running commentary on my meals. I am probably going to say to him, "I guess I forgot to tell you what most of my friends know: I don't like people poking around in my food so please don't reach over and take any of my food or beverage" unless you can present something more polite.
Other people dislike people eating from their plates but don't want to ruffle feathers.
Is that coffee you're drinking, Miss Manners? I think I'd like a taste. Here's my spoon.
GENTLE READER: Here, take the whole cup. We can order another one. And you need to find some friends who have been civilized beyond the hunting-and-gathering era.
Miss Manners sees nothing wrong in your desire to protect your food from predators. But since they are your predators, with whom you choose to eat, she suggests a softer approach than your remarks about disliking their picking and poking.
The reply to "I'll have a few of her fries" should be "I'm going to be eating all of mine, so you should order your own." To "I'd like to taste that," try "Then let's ask the waitress to bring you some." And to the unauthorized plunge, it is to turn over the dish saying, "No, that's all right, you take it. I'll order another."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When is it all right to change an RSVP? I know that, if I reply that I'll attend, I need to contact the host immediately if I find I cannot attend, but if I reply that I cannot attend but then plans change and I find that I can attend after all, is it all right to call the host and change my reply, or does my original reply stand?
GENTLE READER: It is still standing, and you can't just kick it back open, but you can knock on it and petition to be readmitted. (Could Miss Manners please be excused for a moment while she ducks this runaway metaphor? Thank you.)
Instead of announcing, "I can be there after all," as if you were conferring an honor, you should say, "I wish I hadn't declined, because it turns out that I'm free, after all. I don't suppose you still have room?"