DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was baptized, I backed up my written invitations with additional e-mails to my closest friends.
One of these, knowing the exact date, time, and venue, replied, "Of course I'll come along!" but did not appear. As she was more than six months pregnant, I was afraid she was lost or in distress.
In fact, my written invitation had not arrived, and as for the e-mail acceptance, "You didn't remind me!" After repeating this several times, my friend angrily left to take a bath, leaving me to converse with her husband, who clearly had never been told of the invitation. I felt deeply hurt but did not let him see it.
We had separate plans for her to visit me the week after (dinner, sci-fi tapes), but her husband, concerned about her tiredness, secretly asked me to cancel. I did so, apologetically; and she expressed her relief, saying "I thought I had to come over after I let you down, when we'd had last Sunday arranged for weeks and weeks."
Now I phoned to enquire about the fate of two Christmas packages I had sent them and their 8-year-old. Her husband helpfully pointed out that I had been sending mail to the house next door for three years. He confirmed that the packages, like most everything except my invitation, had arrived (though no thanks were forthcoming, which made me feel worse).
Do e-mail confirmations still count when the written invitation is lost through the sender's carelessness? If not, how may I make amends? I do not want to make enemies over a baptism!
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is concerned about your friends, too. For three years, they said nothing about your misaddressing their mail, and now they are insulted that they didn't receive your letter. They don't honor their own spoken acceptance of your invitation, and they don't thank you for presents that they admit receiving. They scold you for not nagging them, and they express relief that they don't have to see you.
Miss Manners is glad you don't want to make enemies over a baptism, but you may not have to.
She would prefer to talk about the question you raise in regard to people who are, shall we say, less etiquette-challenged.
What is now being called a "pre-invitation," or a "save-the-date" notice, for an important event should indeed be followed by the actual invitation. But as it is unthinkable (except possibly in the case of those friends of yours) that someone would issue the first and then strike the guest off the list, failure to do so should be presumed to be a mistake. It is your friend who should have been in touch with you to say, "Is your baptism still on for that date you mentioned in your e-mail? I wondered, because I never heard anything more about it."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A girl at my school walks home with me and is bossy because she is always early out of class. She says that me and my friends are always slow, and she needs to get to ballet class. Do you think I should tell her to walk home by herself if she is in such a hurry? Otherwise, what shall I do?
GENTLE READER: You could take up ballet. But, of course, you can tell her to go ahead, provided Miss Manners can trust you say something like, "Sure, go ahead, I'll see you later," and not "Oh, go walk by yourself if you're in such a big hurry."