Miss Manners: If your call isn’t answered, leave a message or text

March 28, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I call my boyfriend and he has company, he doesn’t pick up my call. He thinks it is rude to his guests.

I believe it is rude to me not to answer my call, and that he should pick up and explain that he has company and can call later. Who is correct?

GENTLE READER: Well, let’s see. On one side we have a host who is paying proper attention to his guests. On the other, someone who wants to interrupt him and make him tell her what she would already know from the unanswered call — that he is otherwise occupied.

Please allow Miss Manners to introduce you to the wonders of technology, which provide various ways that you can register your call without disturbing the gentleman. You can leave him a message on his telephone, although you don’t even need to do so, because the telephone records the fact that you have called. You can text or e-mail him.

She only hopes that the content of your message is not, “Why are you paying attention to other people, and not to me?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Through work, I’ve been invited to a reception at a German embassy (not in D.C.). On the invitation it says “to remind.”

I know how to handle “RSVP” and “Regrets only,” but I’ve never before encountered “to remind.” If I didn’t know the context, I would have assumed that this would be some kind of reversed “save the date,” i.e., a reminder that I’ve previously been invited to the function and responded that I’ll be attending. But there hasn’t been any previous communication between the embassy and me.

I asked a British friend who usually knows about these things, but he didn’t know either. He assumed the Germans had made it up themselves, or that it might be a direct translation of some German phrase. I’d be very grateful if Miss Manners could solve the mystery.

GENTLE READER: Easy. Your hosts forgot to send you the original invitation, or it got lost in the mail, or you threw it out with the junk mail.

As Miss Manners recalls, forgetfulness is an international problem, which is why the formal reminder card exists, even in Great Britain. Normally, it does not require a response, because you will have already responded to the invitation itself; it just requires showing up. In this case, however, your hosts need a reminder. So it would be prudent to call to ask tactfully whether you are on the guest list as having accepted.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When giving a birthday party, and/or a retirement party, is it proper for the host to dictate the color of dress the ladies must wear? If a senior cannot afford a new dress, is it permissible or rude to attend wearing another color?

GENTLE READER: Such hosts seem to be confusing the guests with the centerpieces.

Unless they are giving full-fledged costume parties, thus warning away those who do not want to participate, hosts can set only the degree of formality. To ask guests to obey a color theme for a birthday or retirement party is ridiculous.

But given the stipulation, a polite guest would inquire whether her presence was wanted when obedience to the code is impossible. No explanations or apologies on her part are necessary.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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