DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a thank you note for a gift that I gave to my boyfriend's daughter, she wrote: "I would love for you to come to my new home for dinner. Schedule a date and let me know."
I do not feel comfortable scheduling a dinner where I am to be a guest. I consider her invitation to be in the category of insincere invitations like "please visit us some time."
To compound matters, my boyfriend thinks that I am spurning his daughter's invitation. I explained that if she invited me for dinner on a specific date, I would be happy to come. He seemed baffled by this, and when he shared my sentiments with his daughter, she indicated that it had to be done her way. Am I being unreasonable?
GENTLE READER: Unwise, for sure. Here the daughter of your beau is trying, however awkwardly, to be gracious, and you are accusing her of being rude by quibbling about the wording.
That's the sort of thing that gives etiquette a bad reputation.
Miss Manners acknowledges that invitations should be accompanied by specific dates, but there are exceptions when a sincere host may feel the need to yield to the convenience of prospective guests. For example, people who live out of town may be urged to suggest dates when it might be possible for them to visit.
From the daughter's wording, Miss Manners has the impression that she had the thought of deferring to you, as her elder (although why Miss Manners should make that leap is not clear) whose convenience should be sought.
If she had merely referred to "some time," Miss Manners would have agreed that you could hardly be expected to respond, "OK, how about Thursday?"
But that part about scheduling a date sounds serious. You can't decree a date unilaterally, but you could open negotiations by saying, "I'd love to come for dinner. I'm pretty much free after next week, although Fridays are always bad for me because I have my exercise class. When would be good for you?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Acquaintances seem to think it is appropriate to call and leave a message inviting me to a home merchandise party, one or two days in advance. They then ask me to call back with a yes or no, so they can prepare food accordingly.
I have never called back, assuming I am under no obligation, considering the manner in which I was invited. I have then received the catalog for the merchandise in my mail or doorstep, days later, asking me to order by a certain date, "payable to..."
Is it me, or have these merchandise/catalog party throwers become a little overbearing?
GENTLE READER: Not to mention confused. They seem to believe that you are bound to treat them with all the obligations due to friends while they target you with ploys that merchants aim at customers.
Miss Manners agrees that you are under no obligation, but asks you to consider whether you want to give them the full treatment you would give pesky salespeople, which is to ignore them. A compromise would be to reply to the invitation, not by expressing regret, as is decently required for social invitations, but by using the polite commercial response, which is, "Thank you, but I'm not interested."