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Sit. Stay. If Necessary, Speak.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005; Page C10

Dear Miss Manners:

A co-worker has recently adopted a dog and has sent out e-mail invitations to a "puppy shower." She will be "hosting" this shower at our workplace during lunchtime and has asked that everyone bring a dish.

Her e-mail invitation also included a long list of items that the puppy needs, and the following sentence: "If you can't attend but would like to give a gift let me know."

A second e-mail asked me to let her know if I'm going to "donate a gift" so she can "avoid duplicating items."

I am completely at a loss as to how one responds to something like this. My mother would tell me to send a simple "Sorry I can't attend" response, but I fear this person will hunt me down on the day of the event to make certain that I'm truly not available. If it weren't for the fact that it will be held on a day that I simply must be at work, I'd call in sick.

Some people teach their pets to beg and others the opposite. Miss Manners gathers your colleague made a deal with her dog that she would do the begging for both of them.

Your mother is quite right about simply declining outrageous invitations without making a fuss, although summoning people to bring their own refreshments and demanding a present can hardly be considered an invitation. Should you be hunted down -- Miss Manners trusts your colleague will not use a hunting dog for the purpose -- you could go out to lunch or work through it. Surely having work to do is an excuse for not goofing off at the office.

Dear Miss Manners:

I have a friend who is wiser and smarter than I. We are middle-aged moms with grown children, so we tend to give each other advice and to get on each other's nerves -- just like we do to our kids!

I may be considered to be better off -- with an intact marriage, a paid-up home, money for retirement and a completed advanced degree. She lives in genteel poverty -- beloved by all, having dropped out of three PhD programs in the last 10 years.

Anyway, I choose to spend my Sunday afternoons in the kitchen cooking gourmet vegetarian meals for my devoted husband and grown-up kids. She has taken to trying to get me to stop doing this! I am besieged with quick-and-easy recipes, shortcuts, and tut-tuts for spending time doing traditional womanly things while I am going back to grad school in a field I love.

Should I get her to stop it, or just put up with it? I was soundly put in my place when I tried to give her advice on getting her financial life together a while back. What is your advice on giving and taking advice from friends?

That one should give it sparingly and take it freely. This is made bearable by Miss Manners's conviction that taking advice and following it are two different things.

That your friend reverses this to believe in giving but not taking, and giving again when not obeyed, makes Miss Manners question her wisdom. Apparently she needs to be told that while you consider her smart and wise, you are never going to give up your Sunday pleasure, so it is no longer open to discussion.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

© 2005, Judith Martin

© 2005 The Washington Post Company