DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my friend and I parted company after a long, pleasant lunch, she commented that we should not wait so long before our next get together.
In years past, we and our spouses and several other couples were a close group of friends that socialized together frequently. I became single and, over time, with no provocation other than my being single, my inclusion in group activities diminished to become the occasional lunch, dinner or holiday party. The couples, however, still socialize together, and some of my lunch friends volunteer descriptions of their activities when we are "catching up."
As we were all close for years and we still know the same people, I want to assume that they are trying to keep me feeling involved, but it always reminds me of how much has changed and leaves me with sad emotions. Is there something I can say to head off these reports without making them uncomfortable, too?
GENTLE READER: You're not the only one this makes sad. Miss Manners finds it sadly discouraging to know that in the 21st century, there are still people who believe that it is improper for a lady to venture out socially, especially in the evening, without a gentleman to escort her.
Furthermore, your friends seem to believe that you concur. The only instances in which it is not unspeakably rude to mention a social event to the uninvited is when the event is one that this person would plainly have been excluded by his or her own choice -- the neighborhood softball game to a nonplayer, for example.
It is time to disabuse your circle of this peculiar notion. You cannot, of course, scold them for not inviting you. But every time such an event is mentioned, you could say wistfully, "I really miss those occasions. I hope you don't think I would enjoy them any less now that I'm single."
You should also be initiating such events, as you surely took some turns doing as a couple. It would be even sadder if you felt devalued as a friend to the point of having to wait for such signs of interest from them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 8-year-old daughter, Emma, has a good friend, Stephie, in school. The girls get together on occasion outside of school for play.
However, every time Stephie's mom calls to extend the invitation for my daughter to go to Stephie's house, it's always noted that Stephie's mom is running errands and her "husband is babysitting and would love it if Emma could come over to help keep Stephie company while he is watching the kids...."
I always feel that Emma is only invited to provide distraction or cheap babysitting services.
The girls are great friends and enjoy their play time together. I want to foster that. However, I feel like we are being used. I am hoping that Miss Manners can help me with some appropriate response to Stephie's mom the next time that she calls for "services" from my daughter.
GENTLE READER: Please do not teach your daughter to take awkwardness for insult.
The girls are friends and enjoy their time together; they are not being left unsupervised, and an 8-year-old cannot be considered to be a babysitter. Miss Manners would have thought it would be Stephie's father who would be miffed at the gratuitous implication that he is incompetent to amuse his own daughter.