Q. I have a small circle of loyal friends, and I think I am mature enough to understand how fortunate I am to be thus endowed. My problem is that they call me when they are depressed, discouraged, angry, bored or suicidal. My job is very demanding, and my day is long. How do I handle their moody, frustrating (and basically selfish) ramblings without estranging them or sending myself over the edge? I rely on your complete impeccable discretion not to reveal my identity.

A. We are in the midst of nationwide "depression inflation" of frightening proportions. Everyone who is momentarily blue quickly declares it a major depression and decidesd that the solution is to annoy his or her friends. Your identity is safe because of the numbers alone.

Loyal friends do respond in one another's hours of needs, but if these happen every hour, they have a right to become suspicious.

Miss Manners would like to see the word "depression" taken out of circulation in reference to all but momentary crises, and perhaps for those, too. With its doleful psychl-medical overtones, it lends unnecessry and unhealthy importance to the fleeting downs (as in "ups and downs") of life.

If your friends cannot diagnose their minor ailments properly, you must learn to distinguish their whining spells from their emergencies. A friend who calls because he is out of sorts, at loose ends, at sixes and sevens, or in any other states fitting the excellent folksy descriptions replaced by "depression," simply should be told that you are too busy to talk now. No apologies are necessary. If you occasionally allow him to gripe at you during your free time, you are more than fulfilling the requirements of friendship.

Incidentally, you might try cultivating people of normally cheerful dispositions. They make wonderful friends, especially when you feel blue.

Q. My friends's daughter is getting married in a few months. I had heard that mothers of the bride and groom should not wear white or black to the wedding. But I thought that rule went out with "white signifies virginity." Anyway, the bride's family is all upset because the groom's mother is wearing white. I also had intentions of wearing white. My friends and I would like to know the restrictions, if any, on black and white worn by the mothers of the bride and groom. Also, should guests follow the same rules?

A: The mother of the bridegroom should not wear white to the wedding, whether she is a virgin or not. Neither should any of the guests. Nor should any of the mothers or guests wear black; this rule, too, is unrelated to physical characteristics that are none of anybody's business.

Allow Miss Manners to explain. White on a bride indicates first wedding, and nothing more personal than that. (Weddings are public events; what comes after them, or before, is a private event.) Black signifies mourning. No woman should show up at a wedding, at which she is neither the bride nor as mourner, wearing white or black.

Q. If the Browns invite the Smiths for dinner for a particular evening without naming a date that is mutually convenient, is it up to the Smiths to do the inviting in the near future? Does this let the Browns off the hook, so to speak?

A. Having made one social overture, the Browns have established their desire to offer hospitality to the Smiths. They may do so once more. If the Smiths wish to establish social contact, they may issue an invitation after refusing the first, or after the second. If, as your comment about the hook suggests, none of these people really care for one another, they may all forget the whole thing right now with no one's feelings being legitimately hurt.