DEAR MISS MANNERS: I used to be comfortable about responding to invitations and announcements, but some recent ones from longtime friends have left me wondering:
"We would like to invite you to a wedding concert with some informal dancing (date, time, location). NO PRESENTS, but please bring a potluck finger food that does not need refrigeration plus a bottle of champagne to share. Please do not tell others and RSVP ASAP so we can fill your spot if you cannot come." No mention of any wedding for this decades-long co-habiting couple.
"Please join us at our son Englebert's graduation ceremony (date, time, location). Although he will not be able to attend, we look forward to sharing this event with you."
"Penelope died yesterday -- no services, and PLEASE, no flowers or condolences."
"A baby shower for Lulu and Axelrod (people we have never heard of) is being given by their friends (who are not identified by names or any return address). No need to attend -- just mail a gift card to the home of her parents (whose identities are also unknown to us)."
"We've moved! Housewarming gifts may be sent to (new address). We look forward to seeing you sometime in the next year or so!"
How should I respond to each of these?
GENTLE READER: Why would you want to?
If you share Miss Manners' belief that not answering invitations is a high crime, she thanks you. But these are not exactly invitations. The wedding concert is a suggestion that you prepare yourself a picnic. The graduation is a ceremony that even the guest of honor has declined. The death announcement has allowed no opportunity to mourn. The shower and housewarming request contributions without attendance.
If you actually know these people, it would be kind to send congratulations or condolences, despite their not having expressed warmth or offered hospitality.