Miss Manners: Feeling lukewarm about dinner invitation
By Judith Martin, Nicholas Martin and Jacobina Martin,
Dear Miss Manners: Is it wrong to accept an invitation to someone’s house for a casual dinner if you don’t plan on reciprocating?
They are nice people and I would feel bad not accepting their invitation. However, I don’t entertain very often, and there are many people I would prioritize over them when I do plan to host a dinner.
Well, be sure to let them know where they stand when you reply.
Acceptance of one invitation does not strictly require reciprocation. But plenty of guests accept invitations repeatedly with no intention of responding in kind, or justify it with flimsy excuses of culinary ineptitude or lack of adequate space.
At least the thought of reciprocity crossed your mind. This does not give you an entirely pass, however. Miss Manners suggests that if you like the couple well enough to spend an evening with them, you may go ahead and accept. Perhaps you will be surprised by how much you enjoy it and feel compelled to reciprocate. Or at least have the grace to express the intention.
Dear Miss Manners: Over the years, several of my friends and relatives have been afflicted with, and died from, various types of cancer. Each of them fought bravely but inevitably succumbed to their disease.
I’m cynical from my experiences, perhaps, but I see a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. Yes, I know about the exceptions, but in my experience, these exceptions are rare.
How do I convey the hope these people deserve, yet remain true to myself by not offering ridiculous consolations? The typical “thinking of you/sending positive thoughts/healing light/you’re in my prayers” drivel is, in my mind, useless. What should I say?
Few who are truly sick expect more than your sympathy. And Miss Manners agrees that “thoughts and prayers” have become cliche.
All that is required is “I am so sorry,” perhaps adding an offer to be of service for meals, errands or rides to the hospital. Unless you are a doctor — their doctor — you are not expected to make false predictions that it will get better. Just please do your level best not to say anything that will make them feel worse.
And that should start by eliminating the automatic assumption that cancer — which is a variety of conditions that affect people in different ways — is fatal.
Dear Miss Manners: While waiting in line at a restaurant, my stomach began to growl. The person next to me commented, “Someone must be hungry!” causing others to giggle and leaving me slightly embarrassed.
Growing up, I was taught that it was permissible to greet a person’s sneezes with “bless you” or “gesundheit,” but that bodily sounds from below the neck should go unheard and without comment. Have things changed?
It is difficult not to react to abrupt noises — and ignoring them is not always possible. But you were taught well, and Miss Manners commends your self-restraint in not shaming others.
No doubt, this helpful stranger was trying to reduce your embarrassment, rather than exacerbate it. That said, your obvious mortification should have served to prove that instinct wrong.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2021, by Judith Martin