Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Save the Lace for Evening

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband saw an acquaintance of ours who said to him, "(My wife) says to tell you to have your wife call her. It's our turn to have you to dinner."

Both of us are somewhat new to our city. We had them to dinner once about six months ago, and neither my husband nor I enjoyed the evening as much as we might have, although it wasn't disastrous. She is more interested in material things than we are, and he is somewhat argumentative -- although not obnoxiously so.

Some weeks later, they took us to dinner at a very nice restaurant. We were not aware that they intended to pay for the dinner, but after making the appropriate efforts to share the bill, we accepted their insistent generosity with thanks. That evening was no more pleasurable than the first, although there was nothing odious about either dinner.

The issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that the gentleman and I have been in the same discussion group for about a year, so I will see him again on a casual but professional basis.

I wonder if I'm correct in thinking I should not call said wife. First of all, I think they should call us if they want to invite us, but -- more to the point -- we really don't want to develop this acquaintanceship any further.

GENTLE READER: Calling people to remind them to issue you an invitation is not the way invitations work. It is also infinitely harder to decline an offer that one has oneself initiated.

Tell your husband to ignore the request. If he is questioned by the other husband, he may say, "I got confused by all the pronouns. Please tell your wife that Mary Pat is happy to receive her call."

At which point, Miss Manners assures you, you may decline using whatever excuse you wish. Except for the truth: that the couple is "meh" and not really worth your time. Because even if that is more to the point, it is not the point that will get you out of this politely.