DEAR MISS MANNERS: My financial situation has changed recently, and not for the better. I am in a quandary about how to deal with invitations to events that I cannot afford.
These aren't invitations to extravagant balls, but invitations to meet for meals at moderately priced restaurants I used to frequent with them, or attend movies and concerts at venues that used to be in my price range.
If I explain that finances are too tight, instead of changing plans, they offer to pay my share. While I appreciate their generosity, I don't always want to divulge my financial difficulties, nor am I comfortable having other people pay my share all the time.
When I initiate events, I do so in ways that are affordable to me and I believe they will enjoy, too, such as meeting for coffee or inviting them for a meal at my house.
Do you have any advice about how I can respond to others' invitations in a way that doesn't require me to divulge too much personal information, be a constant charity recipient or insult them by simply refusing?
GENTLE READER: With a bit of effort, you can be in the position of doing your friends a great service. Even if they are not feeling the pinch themselves these days -- and few people are not -- they may welcome a change from their routine.
So do some research about cheap eating places and free events, and start suggesting the outings. Expensive is not necessarily better, in Miss Manners' experience, and if you choose well, you needn't mention that cost was a factor.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am appalled that on more than several occasions, I have had friends, family or employers assume that since they don't have lunch (during an entire day when I'm helping them), neither do I.
At the very least, I would like them to state, "I don't have lunch, but you're welcome to do so at this time, if you chose." I don't think it's my place to bring it up, since I'm on their turf.
I end up very starving and very angry.
In my opinion, it's highly disrespectful to assume that someone who is helping you has no interest in lunch. I have a very high metabolism, and I'm hungry every two/three hours. I typically eat at 11:30 a.m. or 12 noon each day. I would never let a friend, relative or employee go without lunch, and I am amazed that people even consider conducting themselves in this manner. It's not only extremely rude but it also prevents a person from gaining more energy to help these lovely people who assume that I don't want sustenance at this normal hour.
GENTLE READER: Feeling grouchy, are we? Have a sandwich; you'll feel better.
Miss Manners cannot offer you one at the moment, but she can offer you the means to get one. Simply ask, "When are we breaking for lunch?" While your hosts certainly should have offered, it is not odd for you to ask because, you point out, lunch is part of the normal routine.
Should the answer be "Oh, I never have lunch," you can cheerfully reply, "Well, I do, so I think I'll take a break and go get some." In cases where you are doing a favor, you might add,
"So maybe we should break for the day."