DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who calls or comes by only when she has no one else to hang out with.
We’ve known each other for 13 years and have gone out together only two times that I can recall. She asks me to do things with her, then makes plans with other people and doesn’t even let me know that she changed her plans, so I get stuck sitting around trying to come up with something to do all day.
I want to say something, but I don’t know how to say it without sounding hurtful or resentful. What do you suggest?
GENTLE READER: “I’m so sorry, I’m busy.” If you have gone out only twice in 13 years, Miss Manners assures you that this answer is unlikely to have an adverse affect on either your social calendar or what you generously call a friendship.
No room at the table after all
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend invited herself to our house for Thanksgiving, and I did not say no. My husband had a fit and says no way. How do I tell her she cannot come over for dinner?
GENTLE READER: You might take a lesson from your husband in how to say no. Apparently he knows how to do this effectively.
Actually, you would have had to learn to top him at that had you actually issued the Thanksgiving invitation. But as your friend issued it herself, Miss Manners will allow you some leeway.
You could tell her, in tones of extreme regret, that while you would love to have her to dinner, it will have to be on another occasion, as in this case you had failed to check with your husband and now find that it is impossible.
But please do not try to explain why it is impossible. Part of the skill of saying no is to shut up afterward and not babble on, offering material for an argument.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a small, intimate funeral service for the elderly mother of a close friend, held in a chapel at the cemetery, I noticed the woman next to me reading something on her cellphone, after which she began texting.
I looked at her as she was doing this, and she stopped typing and, I thought, put the device away.
As the service progressed, however, she continually pulled the device out again and started texting. This happened throughout the service. Beyond the fact that it was unbelievably rude to do this in a church setting, let alone a funeral service, it was very distracting.
I was tempted to do a number of things, including asking her to put the device away or even changing seats, but I just kept quiet and endured her rudeness. What should one do in these situations? When is using such a device considered bad manners?
GENTLE READER: Suggesting that “You might find it less distracting to text outside” has the advantage of ambiguity: If said politely, it might seem to offer sympathy over annoyance caused by trying to read and write while surrounded by mourners.
Miss Manners prefers this to drawing attention to the fact that this person’s dinner plans are more important to her than a friend’s mother’s death and the grief of the bereaved.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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