DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm a 34-year-old male married graduate student in biology, working in an academic lab. My labmates consist of six single females, undergraduate and graduate students, between 21 and 25 years old.
As you can imagine, the conversation can become quite energetic, as such topics as boyfriends, cute guys and analyses of what one should wear perfume the air. I politely tolerate the mindless chatter even when it becomes inappropriate, which if it were spoken by males in the presence of females, would border on harassment.
My main problem is that they continually invite me to social events that I believe a married man shouldn't participate in, and my polite declines are countered with negativity. I am continually invited to go to dance clubs and bars on nights and weekends to celebrate everything and anything that happens in their lives.
I am an older student who spent some time in the workplace before starting college, and, as such, I see my lab as my workplace. Most of my labmates have never worked a job between high school and college and make no distinction between work time and play time.
I typically have lunch with them and interact freely to show that I'm not an isolationist, but I shouldn't be expected to party the night away, should I?
My calm and accommodating explanations are only met with demands to bring my wife along, but they don't understand that my wife and I don't typically engage in those activities.
I am often told that I look a lot younger than I am, which I am grateful for, but I really am older than my labmates in many ways. I think that I have demonstrated exceptional composure when facing these clamoring post-teens, but my patience is wearing thin.
So, what do I do when my polite rejections precipitate responses like, "Fine, I'm never asking you again"?
GENTLE READER: Well, that would solve the problem, if only they made good on the threat.
But Miss Manners suspects that they are having too much fun teasing you about not knowing how to have fun, which is defined solely as clubs and bars (and teasing you). Maturity might suggest your being amused at this, perhaps overplaying the age factor with humor.
If you are not up to that, she suggests that you offer a counter-invitation, in the form of a low-key supper party at home with you and your wife. They may still giggle at the quietness of your life, but are bound to notice, all the same, that domestic life can offer even deeper pleasures.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My roommate is in the midst of planning a wedding. He has several family members whom he has either not kept in contact with or for whom traveling for the ceremony won't be feasible. You recommend inviting these types of guests so as not to hurt their feelings; however, I've always thought that doing so gave the appearance of begging for gifts. I wonder, would it be an appropriate compromise to send invitations to them without including information regarding the registry?
GENTLE READER: Oh, so you think it is all right to beg for gifts from people who are likely to attend?