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

Don’t Read Too Much Into Text-Message Banter

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was surprised by my daughter-in-law’s method of declining an invitation to a family function.

I had sent a text explaining that two of the previously invited relatives would not be there due to illness, but that we had plenty of food to consume. I received a text from my daughter-in-law stating that my granddaughter was “still stuffy, and I would rather stay home where it is warm and comfy and put less mileage on my car.”

The daughter-in-law has developed a car infatuation, and I was hurt by the idea that she would put the car over family, as well as the implication that my house is not “warm and comfy.” I think I should also explain that I jump in the car and drive that distance to babysit my wonderful granddaughter at least once a week.

Am I being too sensitive, or was the text unnecessarily rude? We have always had a good relationship.

GENTLE READER: Texting is so wonderfully efficient because it strips away both formality and context, sometimes to a ludicrous degree.

Suggesting your daughter-in-law come over because someone has to eat all that roast beef, for example, might not have been the most gracious invitation of all time. Or it might have been understood as lighthearted, in-family banter.

Whichever is the case, Miss Manners would assume that your daughter-in-law was answering in kind, and perhaps should not be taken entirely literally. A more important question is: At what point was the refusal made? Refusing an invitation is not rude, but canceling after having accepted is.