DEAR MISS MANNERS: A dear friend of many years and I have seen less of each other of late, ever since I moved 75 miles away. We have managed, until recently, to retain our close ties by driving to each other’s homes for a day or two.
However, there was a recent kerfuffle, which arose when friends drove her to my town to celebrate her birthday (which also happens to be mine, no matter). I had asked her if she could possibly have them stop at my home just long enough for me to hand her a birthday present, which she thought would be fine. (The road for their way out of town is literally 1 1/2 blocks from my house.)
However, she called to say the gal who drove said “no” to my request. It put a serious wedge between us for a few weeks, but things settled down eventually. I just invited her up per our regular visits, but, apparently in response to the previous goings-on, she said she would “pencil me in” so I shouldn’t count on it.
What should my response have been? (The old story of Susie Q accepting Joe’s invitation to the dance, but dumping him when the football star asks her, comes to mind.) Do I mention a deadline by which I need to know? Or do I cancel the invitation, with the expectation of rescheduling it some other time when she can commit with no caveats (short of someone’s trip to the emergency room)?
GENTLE READER: There are only two proper answers to an invitation, and “Sure, if I don’t get a better offer” is not one of them.
In the situation you describe, asking for a decision -- or offering an alternate date -- are both defensible responses. But why, Miss Manners wonders, has it come to this? Your friend -- and perhaps you, as well -- appears to be using manners to disguise, badly, your unhappiness with the resolution of the previous trip. This is not only confusing, it is ineffective.