DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please tell me how to respond to people at work who ask me how my weekend was and then walk away. I find this worse than saying nothing.
GENTLE READER: We seem to have a geographical problem here.
Or are you asking what to shout at their backs as they retreat?
Even then, Miss Manners would have trouble understanding the problem. A colleague's "How was your weekend?" is a mere pleasantry, not an invitation to explain that you did the crossword puzzle in ink, washed the dog, looked up an old flame on the Internet, rented some movies and ate too much. So, unless you fell off your balcony, in which case you probably would not be at work on Monday, the answer is, "Great; yours?" This should not take long enough to allow your retreating questioner to get far.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am lucky enough to be blessed with many friends and acquaintances, who often invite myself or my partner and I to social events and outings. The problem is that the amount of invitations often overlap and cascade in such a fashion that I am forced to make decisions from a hat-full of invitations about whom to spend time with for almost every night and weekend-day.
For example, I was recently faced with a conundrum: a family friend and his fiancee were celebrating their engagement at a drinking establishment on a Thursday night. I was made aware of this at short notice, at which time I already had plans to meet with a potential business partner for drinks, to discuss opportunities.
My consternation arose from the fact that I had already rescheduled the business meeting once that week -- a second postponement would surely be deemed a waste of my colleague's time. However, my engaged friends had organized for many of their friends to meet with them and wish them well. Of course, a postponement for them would have been out of the question. What would you suggest in this scenario?
Fortunately for me, providence intervened at the last minute -- the engagement drinks were shifted to earlier in the evening, so I was able to attend that at the beginning and end, with the business drinks as a hiatus in between.
I seem to recall something from my childhood about the first invitation on the timeline taking precedence. Could you suggest what the most polite course of action should be for selecting one invitation and declining others?
Ought I to respect the "first in, best dressed" rule? Or am I at liberty to choose an event based on a personal preference? Is there a rule of thumb in this regard? How many declined invitations or reschedulings will be considered rude by one individual or couple, generally speaking? Also, in this electronic age, how rapidly must one respond to an invitation, especially by e-mail?
GENTLE READER: As you already know the chief answer -- reply to invitations as you receive them, decline what does not interest you, but don't reschedule except for illness or death in the family -- Miss Manners can only urge you to follow it and congratulate you on being so popular. Last-minute drinks in a bar hardly constitutes a major occasion justifying canceling previous plans.