DEAR MISS MANNERS: I teach Sunday school with three other ladies at my church, but I have never socialized with them outside of church. One of the ladies is pregnant and I’ve been e-vited to the shower. I replied with the “maybe” option.
At church on Sunday, one of the ladies approached me and asked if I wanted to split an expensive shower gift three ways. The two had picked a gift and asked if I could pay a third of the price.
I really didn’t want to, and mumbled my way through an explanation of how I owe taxes this year and I’m trying to be extra careful with spending right now -- which isn’t untrue, though technically I could afford it. I just don’t particularly like the woman having the baby (she has never once made an effort to talk to me about anything unrelated to Sunday school, and is pretty rude) and I would rather conserve my money for another purpose.
I feel humiliated for having said that I can’t afford it, guilty for my quasi-lie, and confused as to whether socially I really owe this woman a gift. I’m not going to be able to attend the shower, as it turns out. I guess I just wish they hadn’t asked me.
GENTLE READER: When Miss Manners recommends tempering negative reactions and harsh opinions with a touch of kindness, a certain type of reader invariably accuses Miss Manners of encouraging the sin of lying.
But most of the time, there is no need to offer any excuse, much less a false one. Just as the hostess of this shower need only be told that you regret that you cannot attend, those suggesting the joint present could be answered with “No, thanks, but that’s nice of you to do this and I’m sure she’ll love it.”
Just don’t accuse Miss Manners of immorality because you don’t feel regret and you don’t think the present is nice. The only sins she sees here are your availing yourself of a “maybe” option to an invitation, and their offering it.