DEAR MISS MANNERS: When our nephew celebrated his 10th birthday, my sister-in-law notified my mother-in-law of the date and time of the party about three days prior, and she then passed the information on to us.
My husband’s younger brother inquired separately and was told a different time. He passed that information on to my mother-in-law, who again passed it on to us the day before.
Neither my husband’s older brother nor his wife directly invited us and, feeling it was rude to assume an invitation, we did not attend. Unfortunately, it’s clear that we’ve upset them. In the past, when we’ve assumed we were invited to events, based on a word-of-mouth invite through his parents, it was made clear -- through comments made about not having enough food for everyone -- that we weren’t actually invited. There have also been birthday parties that were strictly meant for our nephew and his friends where we did not receive an invitation.
My husband tried to explain our reasoning, but it doesn’t seem to have cleared up the hard feelings. Were we wrong? Should we have gone anyway?
GENTLE READER: Would you tolerate an acquaintance who expected you to attend events to which you were not properly invited and for which the times changed without advance warning, only to be punished with unpleasant comments when you guessed wrong?
Likely not. But Miss Manners reminds you that, contrary to popular belief, family requires more effort, not less. You must therefore put aside your annoyance and concentrate on clearing up the confusion. Tell your sister-in-law that you are extremely sorry to have missed your nephew’s party and you would appreciate her help in ensuring it does not happen again. You could throw in that you also felt terrible when you attended her cookout, only to discover that you were not invited.
Tell her that if she could relay invitations directly -- rather than going through your mother-in-law -- you would be immensely grateful. And then, because it is family, you will have to start calling and confirming directly if she does not do as you asked.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)