DEAR MISS MANNERS: All three of my sons have birthdays within a week of each other. They range in age from 24 to 29. I have a limited income, which the kids are aware of. To celebrate their birthdays I invited each of the boys to a local restaurant and comedy show as my treat. Their wives and girlfriends were invited to go Dutch.
The youngest son's wife said I should pay for everyone, and my son, agreed. Everyone else went except these two. However, there was a noticeable feeling of irritation towards the missing ones. Everyone assured me I shouldn't feel bad or guilty for not paying for everyone.
To add insult to injury, about a week later, my son's wife left a message saying they would like to go out to a local family restaurant. I would have been expected to pay for all three of us.
I was so angry I didn't do anything for his birthday. I was taught when a gift is offered you don't say "No, I'd rather have something different." What do you think? Please don't use my name. Just sign me "A Mom Who Taught Him Better!"
GENTLE READER: Yes, but look what you taught them. You taught them that the way to use limited resources is to have your own fun regardless of other people's feelings.
It strikes Miss Manners that if you had taken everyone to dinner and skipped the show, it probably would have cost you less. Or you could have taken them to a less expensive restaurant. It is not the cost of the hospitality that should count, but its graciousness. But you killed that by issuing real invitations to your sons and second-class ones, if they can even be called invitations, to the ladies in their lives.
Miss Manners agrees with you that invitations, like presents, should be accepted or declined. But she agrees with your son and daughter-in-law that such an invitation should be declined.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have numerous business and social contacts, but when we received a wedding invitation from someone several states removed from us, we were unable to determine any knowledge of the bride, groom, or of their families, try as we might.
I declined the invitation with regrets but still wonder if that was the proper way to respond. Should I have called the parents of the bride and tried to determine a connection? If so, what should I say? Should we send a wedding gift?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hopes you use an answering machine on your telephone. She would hate to think of the social obligations you might take on from people who dial you because they have the wrong number.
If you do have some connection with these people, it must be so tenuous as to make it silly for you to be invited to, much less attend, their wedding. Declining politely was all you needed to do, unless you could be absolutely positive that you were addressed by mistake. Perhaps your name and address will alert them that they mis-addressed the invitation.