DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an e-mail from an acquaintance who is recently married and intentionally pregnant, asking if I might like "to be the coordinator of some support for us once the little one emerges. It would involve checking in with us on a regular basis about what kind of support we could use, and then a fair amount of e-mailing and phone calling (probably a few phone calls and/or e-mails a day) and making some sort of calendar to keep track of what, who and when. Needless to say, it would be a fantastic gift."
The over 50 friends and family members who also got this email were told, "If you don't want to organize but are interested in being on the help contact list, some suggestions we have been given for ways to be supportive are: meal drop off every other day or so, grocery shopping, helping clean or organize around the house (dishes, laundry, etc.). We are looking forward to sharing this immense transition with all of you."
Is their request appropriate? Worth noting is that both sets of the couple's parent are financially very well off and live within 10 miles of them. It seems that they are asking their friends to take on the job of volunteer nanny.
Several of my own friends and family read the e-mail and threatened to write you personally if I didn't. Some were even tempted to scold the couple directly. Any words of wisdom you care to impart?
GENTLE READER: Words would fail Miss Manners, had she not long been prepared by observing -- and trying valiantly to stem -- the rapid growth of shamelessness.
Weddings and childbirth are now commonly associated with demands for goods and services. Rather than risk depending on the good will of their relatives and friends, the principals demand to be given showers and parties, issue orders for tasks, and use registries to choose their own presents or frankly request cash. Enlisting others to become their servants, cleaning house, supplying meals and rounding up still more free help is only the obvious next step.
As with your acquaintance, they assume it will be taken as an honor to share -- share the costs and the work, that is, while they revel in the glory.
Why anyone goes along with this is beyond Miss Manners' understanding. No, you cannot scold such people, much as they deserve it. But you can ignore them, as you would any other outrageous solicitation, and if everyone did perhaps this abominable attitude would be supressed.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are the appropriate steps to take when one accidentally accepts two invitations for the ?same day? It doesn't happen often, maybe once every couple years, but I recently accepted ?an invite to a dinner party only to remember a couple days later that I'd already promised to ?attend another event.
GENTLE READER: And you want to go to the second one, don't you? Miss Manners thinks that because you aren't already on the telephone to the second host, apologizing profusely for not having checked your calendar, sobbing about how you hate to miss it, and so on.
No, you can't do that to the first host, because he asked you first. Besides, more time has passed since you accepted that invitation than the second one, so it wouldn't be plausible. You must stick with the first host and grovel your apologies to the second one.