DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a senior in high school. The program I am in is very competitive and produces very high-achieving students. Because of this, quite a few of the students apply to places such as Stanford, UC Berkeley and the Ivies.
I was very lucky -- I was accepted into my first-choice school very early in the year and my classmates, even the ones to whom I am not very close, were (or at least pretended to be) very happy for me, and I will be happy to do the same for them. What I'm wondering is how to properly expresses my regret to people who do not get accepted into their top schools. Also, what is the correct response to people who get deferred? And do the answers to these questions change depending on whether the student in question is a good friend or just a casual acquaintance?
Should I say anything at all if a third party told about someone else's rejection/deferment? So far, I haven't, mostly because my friends tend to tell me about their rejections from universities (though some are tight-lipped about their acceptances).
GENTLE READER: You should do everything you can to stay out of any such conversations with anyone. If told directly about deferments or rejections, say something like "That's insane -- it's such a lottery" and then quickly change the subject: "Are you going to the game tomorrow?"
This is because there is nothing you can say that will not be interpreted as patronizing. "Forget them; you'll get into a good school" will bring on the thought of "easy for you to say," and even "I was just lucky" calls attention to the contrast between your situations.
Miss Manners understands how unfair this is. You only want to be kind and polite. You are not comparing yourself to them, so why should they?
They shouldn't, and perhaps they would not. But they were gracious about your triumph and you should spare them having to muster that much generosity again.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable to turn down a wedding invitation because of the sheer cost to get there?
I have a friend who is getting married next summer in a remote location. It would take me a few hours to fly there and five hours to drive from the airport. The monetary cost for my husband and me is very high.
This is a friend we rarely see and are not close to. We feel it would be easier for us to send a nice (possibly expensive) gift and send our regrets. Is that OK?
GENTLE READER: A wedding invitation is not a summons with the fine already attached. Of course you may turn one down for whatever reason -- that you are not particularly close to the person being married, that you cannot easily afford the trip and the time or that you just don't feel like going.
All Miss Manners requires is that you answer the invitation without any such explanation (none is needed) and wish the couple well. You don't even have to send a present, but if you want to do so, you needn't feel that its worth has to make up for your absence.