DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm a writer whose latest invention is a sort of memoir. Some of it involves information that is quite personal, including abuse history. (I'll use a pseudonym.)
I am not one to divulge overly personal information with a new acquaintance on the first meeting; neither would I ever go on a talk show to air my dirty laundry. But I feel that a written work is somehow different.
What, if any, is the difference between a memoir in which personal information is being spread by way of print rather than in conversation with strangers? Obviously, the reader is not placed in the difficult position of having to listen -- if they don't like the book, they can put it down. Any other thoughts?
GENTLE READER: Another big difference is that you can claim you have done it for the sake of art. Miss Manners prefers that explanation to the one about how it makes you feel better to get everything out. The inattention to how it makes others feel seems to hang there in the silence.
As you point out, you have protected potentially reluctant confidantes by putting it into a book instead of into the ears of anyone you happen to meet. You are also protecting the abuser, which not everyone wants to do, by using a pseudonym. Miss Manners hopes that you are being equally considerate of others in your life who may not want to have their privacy violated, even if you treat them favorably.
But you are leaving yourself wide open. Strangers may now feel free to discuss your personal life with you, and you cannot depend on everyone's taking the sympathetic point of view with which you presumably present yourself. Nosiness is a big problem in modern society, and Miss Manners is constantly asked to supply polite ways to say "none of your business" to unauthorized questioners and advisers.
She would not be able to protect you, however. You will have made your personal life the business of your readers. Perhaps you do not mind that -- or you are willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of art.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The rules for wearing white shoes in summer have me wondering. No white shoes after Labor Day is clear. But we do wear them on Labor Day weekend? What about Memorial Day weekend? Must we wait until Monday to wear our white shoes or spectator pumps? Or may we wear them on Saturday or Sunday of Memorial Day weekend?
GENTLE READER: Allow Miss Manners to thank you for not arguing about the validity of the rule. It is a source of amazement to her that of all the pronouncements she makes having to do with personal, professional and political life, this is the one that attracts the most vehement opposition.
Memorial Day (not Easter, as some claim) and Labor Day are the boundaries of the American white shoe season. The start of each would be just after midnight on that date, for those who are awake at that time but have not kicked their shoes under the drinks table. Therefore, the weekend before Memorial Day would be too early to begin, but the weekend before Labor Day occurs before the closing deadline.