Friday, April 22, 2011


Reader mail! Rosalie alerted us to an awesome smackdown of an advice column suggesting that a 14-year-old lesbian should remain in the closet. Thanks, Rosalie! The original letter appeared in the Dear Lizzie column of the Pennsylvania Patch newspaper, which we may have to start following.

Now, we move onto college. In April 14's Miss Manners, a student doesn't want to share notes!
I am a college student with a question about the etiquette of borrowing notes. It has taken me a long time and a lot of hard work to get to college, as I’ve been financially independent since high school. Now that I’m actualizing my goals of higher education, I take my studies seriously and make a point to not skip class, to do my homework, to understand the material, etc.

There is a girl who was in a couple of my same classes last term and is again currently. She is an excuse maker, and she is constantly behind. She asks me for help. Last week, she asked to borrow notes. I said okay but told her to return them before next class so I could keep my notes in order.

Surprise, she didn’t show up. She brought my notes back to class today, but, since she missed class again on Monday, now wants to borrow those notes. I find it rude that she would ask for a favor, not uphold my conditions, and then ask for another.

I’ve turned down her requests for help in the past, but she keeps asking. I am sick of hearing her self-pitying; none of her excuses are justifiable for consistent lagging (i.e. oversleeping, slow bus, etc.), nor are they more serious than any of the challenges I’ve overcome to be here. Life is hard, so is college; stop making excuses and get to work.

How do I politely tell her that I am not her personal tutor?
Miss Manners responds,
You have a perfect excuse in that your classmate did not abide by the terms you set when lending her your notes. Yet you have fresh experience of how annoying excuses are.

Miss Manners assures you that no such evidence is necessary — nor is using one desirable. Excuses invite the persistent to argue back. You would only bring on another round of her excuses and unreliable promises.

Lulu: I'm not anti-nerd. I'm not anti-take-good-notes or anti-do-well-in-school. I like all of those things! (Although I did not take good notes.) But this LW really rubs me the wrong way, and it's not just the word "actualize." It's pretty clear that the thing about keeping notes in order is an excuse, and the LW doesn't want to share because he (I'll assume it's a he) doesn't think the asker deserves them. He feels put-upon that he has to do all the work and some people GET AWAY WITH DOING NOTHING. I can't stand that attitude.

Granted, the asker sounds like a tool, too--if you borrow something, you should return it before the other person needs it--but what's the big deal with giving out your notes? Why do you have to be possessive of them? Why can't we help each other, regardless of the moral fortitude of our peers?

That said, since he believes that hard work is a sign of virtue and failing to prioritize academics is a sign of worthlessness, he could at least make an effort to find out if the reason she can't make it to class is because of obstacles (e.g. job, family responsibilities, learning difference) or priorities (prefers to sleep, active social life, overloaded on other classes etc.) "Overslept" could mean "I was partying" or "I was working the night shift to PUT MYSELF THROUGH COLLEGE."

But if he doesn't want to share his notes, he should just say so. It seems like the only reason he's doing it is because he's dimly aware that refusing would make it look like he's being uptight, but since that is what he is doing, he should just be honest about it.

Ashley: Or he could just photocopy them.

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