DEAR HARRIETTE: Three of my close friends and I were invited to a mutual friend's party. I made the assumption that our fourth close friend was also invited since we all know each other well. I was wrong. Because of my assumption, I casually asked this friend what she was wearing to the party, as we always do before we are getting ready for an event. She didn't know what I was talking about. The more I explained myself, the worse it got. I quickly figured out that I had made a mess of things.
I know the hostess doesn't have to invite anybody she doesn't want to invite. I made an honest mistake, but now our friend is feeling left out. What can I do to fix it? -- Party Pooper, Racine, Wis.
DEAR PARTY POOPER: You did make an honest mistake, one that I hope will teach you not to talk with others about outside events unless you are sure they've been invited.
It is not unusual for a host not to invite every single friend in a group to an event. I wonder if friend No. 4 was singled out and not invited for a reason. Perhaps there is an issue between her and the hostess of which you are unaware. Or your friend just may not have made the guest list. Or it could have been an oversight.
Rather than digging an even deeper hole, stop. Apologize for putting your foot in your mouth. Tell your friend you are sorry that you made things awkward. Don't create a long and drawn-out scenario by evaluating the situation with your friend.
You may want to tell the hostess that you told your other friend. Then if it comes up, she won't be blindsided.
To party givers I will say that it is important to think about who is on your guest list. If you invite a group of friends, be sure to include all the key members. Leaving out one member of a group usually leads to discomfort -- the opposite feeling you want to evoke as you prepare for your celebration.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother came to visit to help me with a project I was working on. We had a great time together, but she also was supercritical of the way I live. It's fair to say that I am not the neatest person, and she let me have it. I didn't want to hear it, and I was pretty short with her when she made her comments. Should I apologize? -- Embarrassed, Washington, D.C.
DEAR EMBARRASSED: Mothers are often right. Absolutely apologize if you were rude to her. Admit that you know you need to clean up your act. If you have the courage to do so, ask your mother for suggestions on how to approach your mess. She may be able to provide some insight. Beyond that, get organizational support if you can afford it. Strategic help may be the answer to your problem.