Thank you for not sharing.

Thank you for not unloading your total emotional package on the first person you happen to meet. Thank you for not going public with your family secrets. Thank you for refraining from confronting others with the truth about themselves, as you see it, or truths that you think they ought to know but that other people in their lives are keeping from them.

Thank you for understanding that confidences ought to be made not just for the relief of the confessor but also in consideration of the listener's interest and willingness to undertake responsibility. And thank you for employing some restraint and humility in assuming what that might be.

Miss Manners is not requiring polite people to keep all their feelings all bottled up all the time. She is only asking that they not spray them all over everybody.

It has long been Miss Manners' belief that the socially prevalent posture of instant intimacy is not only rapidly boring this society to death but is killing off the possibility of real intimacy. How can you develop solid bonds when you are so busy exchanging phony kisses and other manifestations of pseudo-devotion, such as confiding intimate information, with the world at large?

Love, or liking, at first sight is all very well, but not with everyone you meet. And even then, one has to go back and slowly build the foundation of courtship or ld,10 friendship if one is to have something permanent.

Nor does every close relationship require telling everything you know. Miss Manners' own mother was always the most devoted parent in the world, but she never for a moment thought her age was any of her children's business.

If not everything should be told to everyone, some guidelines are necessary about what information should be confided to whom.

(We are, of course, talking about voluntary confidences made for the sake of intimacy, one of the pleasures of which is unburdening oneself. Naturally, there will be professional people involved in one aspect of your life or another who need to be in possession of basic facts. Miss Manners is not suggesting that you withhold from your doctor the state of your intestines, nor from your real estate agent how much you paid for your house.)

As in Miss Manners' mother's policy, not even every member of your immediate family needs to know everything.

Your income is a good thing not to tell your children. First of all, they might tell it to others, perhaps with an unpleasant motive such as bragging or complaining; and secondly, you don't really want to give them the idea that they have anything to say about its use, so that they either decide you are being stingy with them or they worry that the family will end up in the poorhouse.

Your medical problems should be told to those who are deeply worried either about your health or about their own similar symptoms. Care should be taken in comforting others with stories about having been through the same emotional problems as they, because the natural tendency is for you to point out that yours were worse, and for them, once they are cured, to treat yours as mere gossip.

Family secrets should be discussed only with other members of the family. Other people's family secrets should never be told them by outsiders.

Your scandalous past should be saved to entertain your great-grandchildren, when they inform you that you lived in simpler and more innocent times than they.

Your scandalous present should be told to intimates who care about you enough to guard your interests, but you should not tell them so much that you may be hurt.

Your tricks for cheating on your expense account or taxes should never be told to anyone, because you should retain the proper shame until you have no alternative but to stop doing it.

And your dreams should be told to those who are there when you wake up.

In sum, your confidences should be given to those whose confidences you would receive empathetically, as you expect them to do yours. No fair telling your life story to someone you consider a bore because he only talks about himself.

Q: When one is in a restaurant eating a piece of meat that would not be considered finger food, such as steak or prime ribs, is it permissible to pick up the bone to get at the meat that is inaccessible to a knife and fork? What is the procedure for eating spareribs or chicken?

Your answer will end a friendly dispute, as well as decide who will cook dinner for whom. Dinner, of course, will be eaten with a knife and fork.

A: Then don't serve spareribs. The proper accompaniments for them are fingers, hot towels, old clothes and old friends.

You see, it's more complicated than merely matching the food with the procedure. How is the food cooked? Where is it being eaten? At what sort of event?

In its softer forms, chicken can be a sophisticated dish at a formal dinner, in which case you would never dream of picking up a bone. But it would be equally inappropriate to refrain from doing so with heavily fried chicken at a fast-food restaurant or picnic.

Steak and prime ribs at a slow-food restaurant are not picked up. If you can't get the meat off with your knife and fork, ask for a sharper knife.