DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in my mid-50s and one of my sisters is in her early 60s. She recently emailed me an invitation to her "wedding" to her female partner. They have lived together for about 19 years.
I have no intention of attending. My quandary is how to decline the invitation. I want to be honest. I want to be polite. I see no way to be politely honest.
If I try to be polite and lie, then wouldn't good manners require me to send a gift? I don't see how I can be honest and not upset her. Should I just ignore the email and remain silent and ignore the invitation?
GENTLE READER: If you are so concerned with being honest, why aren't you frank about asking Miss Manners how to use your sister's wedding invitation to insult her and her fiancee without getting caught?
A wedding invitation is not a referendum on the marriage. The only thing it requires you to say honestly is whether you plan to attend. There is no excuse for ignoring it or replying rudely. Miss Manners assures you that if your sister does not already know that you disapprove of her marriage, your absence will make that clear. And no, you needn't send a present.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a woman who is pregnant with my first child and due in a few days, I am curious if there are guidelines in place for relatives respecting one's privacy during delivery.
For the past several days now, I have received a constant stream of texts, emails and phone calls from family members wanting to know if "anything had happened."
While I understand their curiosity is well-intentioned, it has become a bit invasive. If I do not immediately respond to a text message, I am bombarded with phone calls wondering if I am in labor. If I were in labor, do these relatives expect me to stop pushing and answer their call?
My husband and I have told them several times we will certainly call them once our son is born. Is this not acceptable? Has modern technology ruined the privacy expectant parents so desperately need?
Before the dawn of cellphones I highly doubt the hospital would patch a call through to a delivery room while mom was in the process of giving birth ... so I ask, what is the proper etiquette for letting family know that baby has arrived?
GENTLE READER: Actually, they know that the baby has not yet been born, and that they will hear when it happens. This is their way of showing interest -- which doesn't make it any less exasperating for you.
A pregnant lady of Miss Manners' acquaintance complained tearfully to her husband that people kept coming up to her and saying, "Haven't you had that baby YET?" He made her a small placard with a pretty picture of an apple tree and the words, "When the apple is ripe, it will fall from the tree."
On the other side, which she would then turn, it said, "So please be patient."
Well, no, truthfully it said, "So shut up," but Miss Manners cannot bring herself to recommend that when she offers it to you as a rote response for return messages.
As for the delivery room, she suggests that you not bring your cellphone.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)