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Miss Manners: How do we pull back from a friend who wants too much?

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: A lady who was a chat-on-the-phone acquaintance during covid takes up too much of our time, now that many restrictions have been lifted.

This remarkably active and youthful octogenarian phones us every couple of days, always wanting my husband and me to join her and another friend for meals out and visits in our house. While she is bright and entertaining, she likes an audience and hogs every conversation. She also gossips, though not maliciously.

My husband finds it exhausting. We are about 15 years younger than she is, and we treasure our time alone together. We have interests she doesn’t share, plus a few other friends with whom we want to spend time. My interests are in the arts, and although I don’t have to meet deadlines, I work on my current project every day.

We were out of town recently because of a death in the family, and returned home exhausted and weepy. This woman phoned us the very next day, wanting me to discuss our loss and to arrange the next outing.

We don’t want to stop seeing her entirely, but a get-together once every couple of weeks, and perhaps a weekly phone call, would be enough. I hate to hurt her feelings.

We’ve made a variety of excuses. We have also told her (honestly) that we can’t eat out as often as she would like, for financial and health reasons. She doesn’t take the hint. How can we get through to her in a nice way?

There is no rule that you have to pick up the phone every time it rings. Nor that every message must be returned within three hours. Nor that get-togethers be planned no more than 72 hours in advance.

As you do like this person, Miss Manners is not suggesting you abuse any of these ploys. But a judicious use of all three cannot help but create the space you want.

Dear Miss Manners: Earlier this year, my sister-in-law’s father died. My brother told me that the funeral would be private and, since they live out of state, I sent a sympathy arrangement to their home.

Months later, I received a photo card announcing a celebration of the life of this man, with a note attached that read “FYI only.” My sister-in-law followed that up with a text message, saying, “Sent you the invite for my dad’s celebration of life just for FYI. You are not really invited, sorry.”

To which I replied: “Gee, thanks.” Living several states away, I would not be attending anyway, but if they were afraid I would accept, why was I sent this?

Why indeed? Miss Manners agrees that your sister-in-law’s behavior was rude, but she would be more concerned about why she thinks you need information on how to arrange a funeral. And, given the seriousness of the subject, she would not have made your reply, even if the intent was to be lighthearted.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin