DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there such a thing as an invitation being sent out too early for a specific occasion? I am referring to an informal get-together such as an adult birthday party at someone's home, or a party in someone's backyard.
My husband and I received two unrelated invitations to such informal events, sent out more than two months in advance of the actual party. To me this seems a bit desperate: "We'll get them before they could possibly make other plans for the same day."
Are people jumping the gun a bit with invitations? Other than for weddings and such, I prefer not to schedule my social commitments so far in advance. I believe even a wedding requires only a month's notice.
GENTLE READER: What are you doing next New Year's Eve?
Whatever it is, Miss Manners will unfortunately not be able to join you, as she is booked to sing "Traviata" at San Carlo that night.
At least that is what she claims when asked about a future too distant to contemplate. Perhaps a more plausible (not to mention truthful) way to put it is, "Oh, dear, we'd love to, but our plans are somewhat uncertain then. How late could I let you know?"
Miss Manners has tremendous trepidation about offering this excuse, and does so only with the severe rule that it is to be applied only to such highly informal gatherings as you mention, when invitations are sent more than two months in advance.
Usually, when hosts give long notice it is in connection with events where travel is involved and the extra time is intended to be of convenience to the guests, or for events that require elaborate planning on their part. Don't let Miss Manners catch you airily claiming you can't make up your mind whether you will be attending your best friend's wedding or visiting your cousins in their ski chalet in March.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: During lunch, at a birthday party in my honor, a relative of the hostess asked me how old I was, which I thought was rather nosy of her. I smiled and replied "39" (not my age, of course!).
My sister then said, so that everyone could hear, "I have no problem telling people my age." The hostess added "I don't either," and another lady made a similar remark. Two other ladies did not say anything either way, perhaps because they felt the same as I do, that a person's age is nobody's business, or they did not wish to embarrass me further.
A little while later, a remark was made that I did not like my age. I tried hard not to let these insensitive remarks bother me, but it did upset me. I feel that asking grownups about their age is in bad taste.
Am I wrong? What can I say when people ask, or insist that I have a "problem" with my age (which I don't) when they don't get the information they expect?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners can almost excuse the nosiness in this case. It was your birthday party, after all, and people are conditioned from childhood to follow "Happy Birthday to You" with a chorus of "How Old Are You Now?"
But the childishness she cannot excuse is their bullying you, when it was clear you chose not to answer. That's what it is, no matter how they dress it up with psychological explanations. Why you chose not to answer is not a fit subject for them to explore with you.
Unfortunately, your giving a younger age plays into their theory. You might try dear Oscar Wilde's line, "A lady who would tell her age would tell anything." Except that it would only encourage them to ask anything.