DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last week I attended a birthday party for an acquaintance I have known for several years, as we belong to the same organization. Although we are on friendly terms, we are not close friends. Some of the other members are close, and they keep together in their own little circle.
When the hostess called to invite me to the party, to be held four days later at her home, she said that the birthday celebrant had originally not wanted any celebration but in the end agreed to a party in which the guests would pay for themselves. There was also an extra amount to be collected for the birthday gift. I accepted the invitation, glad to be included.
Later, at the party, I realized I had been on the bottom of the totem pole. That is to say, the hostess could only have a certain number of people in her home and those who could not attend were replaced by others. I honestly think the hostess could have informed me that I was replacing someone else when she called to invite me.
The day of the party, I was invited to a very nice event by someone who had acquired tickets the evening before. I felt committed to attend the birthday party as well as being financially committed. Am I being oversensitive in feeling slighted?
GENTLE READER: Not slighted -- miffed. You are miffed because you got a better offer after you had made a commitment that you were glad to get and obliged to keep.
Miss Manners doesn't blame you -- and she is grateful that you did the right thing -- but neither should you blame your hostess, whose only crime was to issue you an invitation. It is sort of like blaming your spouse because you have fallen in love with someone else, which, come to think of it, people do all the time. But then, people do a lot of things of which Miss Manners does not approve -- all the time.
It is especially far-fetched to blame the hostess for not telling you that you were on the B list. Having a B list is not a crime, but letting someone know that he is on it, is. Since you point out that you had not been close to the guest of honor or his circle, it is not surprising that the hostess did not think of you first, but if you want someone to blame, Miss Manners recommends the person who blabbed.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My real estate agent sent me a thank-you note that referred to a point of negotiation she had not been able to resolve in our favor, saying, "Use the enclosed to help take care of that brush pile."
Bless her, it was sweet, but there is only one problem: no enclosure.
Now how do I write the return thank you? I was taught by my dear mama to be both specific and prompt in expressing my appreciation, but I don't even know what "the enclosed" was.
GENTLE READER: Your dear mama was right. To be specific in this case (you will have to supply the promptness), Miss Manners suggests, "How very sweet of you to want to make it up to us about the brush pile. It really isn't necessary, but we appreciate it. Of course we are burning with curiosity to know what it is you meant to enclose."