Life Advice



Excuse Yourself From This Gross Group Of Diners

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was invited to join a group of six for dinner in a very fine restaurant, I was informed by the friend who had invited me that it is customary for each diner to order something different because the group likes to share and sample. One would consume a little from his or her plate, and at a given time, all plates would be passed to the person on the left until we all had a taste and a bite from each dish.

I was horrified, and stated that I would be happy to pass their plates, but my own dinner would stay in front of me to be eaten by me. The group let it be known that I was a spoilsport and no fun. They told me absolutely not, that my dinner was to be shared, as they were all looking forward to a taste.

So I decided that I would make the best of a horrible situation: I passed plates as instructed, but never ate anything -- from any plate -- after my own dinner left me. I consumed bread and the wonderful wine, grateful that the six wine glasses were not also passed around.

How can one best extricate oneself from bizarre rituals or situations? Should I have feigned illness, or a family emergency that required my leaving the group? Pointed out the obvious health and sanitation violations by eating from five other people's plates? Could I have properly said that they could all do as they pleased, but I was not participating or sharing?

Sadly, this was not the first time I found myself in a situation where there was a group taste. I have seen birthday cakes passed around, where everyone had their own fork, took a bite of the cake and then passed it on -- another oh no, how awful ritual that seems to be gaining popularity.

GENTLE READER: Ewww. Miss Manners suggests that you ... No, just ewww.

Surely our current health situation has curbed these disgusting rituals, but if they have not, try a firm, Do you really think this is wise, given the lingering pandemic? I know that I've had too many brushes with the disease to risk it on your behalf. Perhaps it would be just as fun if we tried everyone's dishes by putting them in the middle and asking the waiter for extra plates.

Alternatively, start traveling with your own.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Which is more correct: November 16, 2021, or 11-16-2021?


I have been told the first way is now considered obsolete, but I prefer that format to using the numbers. Sometimes I get confused which number belongs to which month. And then, of course, I get accused of being lazy and stupid.

GENTLE READER: A particularly unkind accusation for something that has so much variation, even within our own continent. Miss Manners will defend you by asserting that she also prefers writing dates out, preferably in handwritten, personal letters with black ink and cream paper.

But in lieu of that, she will settle for paying homage to that practice by using the written-out date in typed-up business correspondence.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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