DEAR MISS MANNERS: You maintain that “Thanks for the invitation, but I think I’ll pass” might be one of the rudest things you have ever heard.
First: What a protected life you must lead! Second: What is a good alternative?
I live in a retirement community and receive frequent invitations to go places (sometimes months in advance) that I just do not want to attend. That doesn’t mean I want the person to “take a pass on extending future invitations,” as you’ve said, but I don’t want to attend that particular cultural event or movie. I usually respond with the exact thing you said was rude, though I do add “this time” to the end.
So my face is red -- I was unintentionally being rude. Now I’m in need of a better way to turn down a particular invitation.
In college, I was very close with a couple. After we graduated, we drifted apart, but I later discovered that one of them was enrolled in the same graduate program.
I got in touch and inquired about getting together. On two occasions, she agreed, but both times, she left a voice message for me at the last minute saying that she was unable to make it. She did not give a reason for canceling either time. I made another attempt, but she blew me off.
After that, I threw in the towel and gave up. I was more than a little hurt that she canceled at the last minute with no reason offered and that the attempts to get together were completely one-sided. I came to accept that we had grown apart, and that she had no interest in rekindling our friendship, not even for coffee.
Fast-forward 11 years, and I received an invitation to their wedding. The invitation brought up those old hurt feelings. My inclination is to trash the invitation and move on.
My partner says that I am being petty, and that I should at least offer congratulations and my regrets for not being able to attend. Such a response seems entirely fake to me. I suspect you may tell me that decorum dictates such a response, but under the circumstances, I am not sure that decorum should prevail. What is your view?
GENTLE READER: That your attempt to undercut Miss Manners is at the expense of your own interests. You don’t much like it when other people blow you off, but consider that in the name of retaliation, you are entitled to a free ... ahem ... pass?
To reiterate, Miss Manners has difficulty with the phrase “I’ll take a pass” -- whether it is accompanied by “this time” or not. (In fact, “this time” reinforces the subtext that one is not impressed by what is currently being offered, but holds out hope that something more appealing will come along in the future.) She does not, however, require attendance to every proffered event, or even invented excuses. Further, she does not defend treating rudeness (or unkindness) in kind.
What your partner suggests is the right thing to do. After all, even though you understandably did not like its timing, your former friend did at least let you know before the fact that she was not going to show up. You must do the same in return, resisting the urge to mirror the behavior you so disliked by doing it last minute -- or pettily.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)