DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have always been taught that finances and expenses are topics that should not be inquired about, due to their obviously sensitive nature, especially in an economy like ours.
The problem I am facing is that I dog-sit for people in my college community (professors, landlords, etc.) and know that I will, in all likelihood, have to continue dog sitting when I graduate this spring with a BA in fashion, even if I can find a job.
While this doesn't bother me (sometimes I like dogs better than people), I face the question, "How much would you like to be paid?" I understand it's a very necessary question, but I never know what to say. I don't have a set price, and I'm willing to work around the budgets of people I know and like. I am never certain of any clients' finances, and I refuse to inquire.
I suppose I am stuck between setting a price and changing it for some, which may appear like I'm doing charity, or leaving payment open, where it might get around that I charge differently for different people, which would be just as bad, if not worse. I suppose it comes down to my looking for a polite and tactful way to ease into the subject of finances without offending, being underpaid or appearing greedy.
GENTLE READER: So there you are, with an etiquette stand-off because you can't ask your clients about their financial situations, and you also can't name a price, because it depends on what they can afford.
But meanwhile, the dogs are jumping about nervously near the front door, desperate to get out. Miss Manners will make haste.
Fix a price and name it. If a client seems to falter, you can adjust it by adding, "but Wordsworth here qualifies for a scholarship" and naming a lower price.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My birthday is coming up next month. I love having parties every year, but this year I'm a little stressed out: I got my invitations about a month ago because I saw them and absolutely loved them. I told one of my friends that isn't as close to me as many of my other friends because I was pretty sure I was going to invite her.
Now that I need to start sending out invitations, I'm not so sure I want to invite her anymore. I don't want her feel left out or for her to think I'm mean, and I especially don't want not inviting her to be a sin. Now whether or not to invite her is always on my mind. Should I invite her? Is it a sin if I don't?
GENTLE READER: If it's your 14th birthday, your mother would tell you that once you announced the party to a prospective guest, you were obliged to invite her. How could she not feel left out if you told her about the party and then left her out?
If you are older, Miss Manners should not have to remind you that the rule is still in effect.