Q. I have a delicate situation that involves borrowed objects, broken hearts and beastly cads.
While on more cordial terms with a former love, I lent him a small refrigerator for his use during the academic year. Through the year, my affection for him dwindled to the point where I no longer speak to him. (His attentions toward me had frozen to sub-zero.)
Is it my responsibility to remind him that his lease of the refrigerator is up? O is it his problem? What if he doesn't contact me? What strategy do I use to avoid an unpleasant confrontation?
A. What you really want, Miss Manners gathers, is a pleasant confrontation -- that is to say, one pleasant to you, in which the beastly cad appears abjectly with the borrowed object and a broken heart.
Unfortunately, he must initiate such a scene; there is no way in which you can prod him into this transformation.
You can, however, prod him into returning the refrigerator. This is best done by sending a short note, strictly neutral in tone, saying that you need the refrigerator back, and that if he lets you know when he can bring it, you will arrange to have someone there to receive it.
With luck, this will produce in him the feeling that he hates to let it go, the realization that it isn't the refrigerator but the link with you that he regrets losing, some unhappiness that you are not even going to see him, and so on, perhaps resulting in the above scene. At the least, it should produce your refrigerator.
Q. I am a food/people lover with a problem. I object to cooks tasting from the cooking spoon, children participating in food preparation (or even closeby breathing into the dishes or dipping a finger in for a taste), people licking their fingers throughout the cake-slicing process, and, as for the friend with the love-me-love-my-dog/cat attitude, I'd just as soon dine at the animal shelter as at her house.
Many TV commercials present all these as acceptable. I solved the dog/cat friend problem by claiming allergies, but how can I diplomatically decline invitations from others, whose friendships I cherish? I just don't care to be a dinner guest in their homes, but I'm running out of excuses.
P.S. I also object to blowing out the candles on the birthday cake. Perhaps a fan could be provided for the ritual.
A. Miss Manners has been trying her best to go along with you. Her heart wasn't really in it, but, on the other hand, she didn't want to come out publicly in favor of licking spoons and fingers.
Then she got to your P.S. Goodbye; Miss Manners has made the leap from considering you fastidious to deciding that you are a proper crazy. This, in turn, frees her inhibition about saying that all cooks taste while they are cooking -- and not from a succession of clean spoons, either -- and that the only transgression is getting caught at it, which is a good reason for keeping one's guests out of the kitchen.
However, Miss Manners also upholds your right to be nutty on the subject. Practice saying, "I'd love to see you, but I really don't dine out any more."
Feeling incorrect. Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature Syndicate Inc.