DEAR MISS MANNERS: Many of us are tired of looking like the bad guy because we declined an invitation to spend a night or two at a friend's vacation home. Why is it that people get upset if you do not accept their offer to join them?
Don't get me wrong, my husband and I like nothing better than enjoying our friends' company. But we prefer to wake up the next morning by ourselves, read a few newspapers and drink coffee. When my routine is thrown off I feel lousy the entire day.
This year we decided to decline these gracious invitations politely. In one case involving air travel, I suggested a compromise of staying at a nearby hotel (of course we would pay for it) and meeting after breakfast.
Well! Let's just say the reactions have been mixed, but one constant remains: The hosts still try to pressure us into staying with them or are personally offended!
Would you please remind vacation home bullies that an invitation is a request, not a law that must be followed?
GENTLE READER: Would you like a whole new set of friends? Miss Manners has a desk full of letters from vacation house owners who are exasperated by the persistence of would-be houseguests in inviting themselves.
But since you have made it clear that you like the friends you have, and only dislike being a houseguest, there should be a simpler solution.
High-pressure hospitality more often takes the form of hosts' urging guests to eat more than they want. Then one can only keep repeating "No, thank you" until they are worn down, because excuses are met with counterarguments.
But there is one reason you can offer for not staying overnight -- "We're really not good houseguests." Do not be tempted to be more specific. Of course you will surround this statement with protestations of how much you love to see the hosts -- but you must allow them to wonder whether this is because you snore, sleepwalk or tend to crash around at night breaking things.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a 60-member assessors office. Shortly after I started working there, my mother passed away. At that time, the office failed to acknowledge this, not sending flowers or even a card.
Since that time, I have noticed that the office's policy is definitely to acknowledge employees for relatives' deaths, new babies, weddings, even recently the operation of an employee's husband was acknowledged with a card and flowers.
Should I see this as possibly a very negative comment on me by my office colleagues and seek employment elsewhere? Is it appropriate for me to refuse to sign cards, etc., for the other employees? I am very hurt and I must face these people every day.
GENTLE READER: Now that you have been there longer, have you become aware of meetings in which employees' individual merits are weighed to determine whether they are worthy of receiving condolence or congratulatory cards?
Separate question: Have you noticed any small signs of inefficiency, such as are normal even in well-run organizations?
Miss Manners can assure you that what you perceive as an intentional slight was no such thing. As you have noticed, it is simply office policy to send cards. Her inescapable conclusion is that since you were a newcomer, they had not yet included you on the employee list, or they felt it was intrusive to offer sympathy to someone they didn't yet know. These would have been mistakes, but not insults.