Dear Miss Manners:
I recently moved into a new home. I introduced myself to the neighbors closest to me and feel very strongly about "being neighborly."
One neighbor lady, whom I have spoken to on four different occasions, invited me to a "romance" party; the invitation basically explains that there will be a variety of lotions, oils and "toys" for sale and display. It also mentions that part of the "fun" of the party is sharing stories.
If this was something like a kitchenware party, I would feel obligated, being a new neighbor, to be friendly and make an effort to attend, or, if I wasn't able to attend, to purchase a small something. But, to me, this is a whole other thing altogether.
I feel this is very presumptuous of my neighbor, whom I do not know, and a little sad that this sort of thing seems to be the "hip" thing now after speaking with a couple of friends. Am I a prude for thinking that this is inappropriate? Or that it should at the very least be exclusive to your very close girlfriends? I don't even want to think about what kinds of stories are going to be told.
However, I don't want to give the impression that I am a stick-in-the-mud, either. I am a very social and outgoing early-thirties. I am also pretty open-minded, or at least I thought I was, but isn't this crossing a boundary? There is also an after-party, which my husband is invited to attend. What are your thoughts? I really don't know how to handle this.
That is because you are so busy trying not to be a prude and a stick-in-the-mud. Afraid that your neighbors will call you names, you want Miss Manners to help you call them names first.
The invitation is only presumptuous in the sense that all invitations presume, without really knowing, that the invitee will want to attend. If she doesn't, she declines. You would not be obligated to attend a neighborhood sales party unless it was your idea of fun, and if not, you would not be obligated to buy your way out of it.
All you need do is to decline with thanks -- no excuse necessary -- and add, for the sake of neighborliness, that you hope to see her and her friends on another occasion. It might be a good time to inquire whether they have a garden club or sewing circle.
Now let us deal with your fear of eschewing whatever you are told is hip. Miss Manners would call this party vulgar, childish and -- because the participants are bound to talk about one another -- dangerous. Refusing to participate strikes her as merely basic good sense and taste, which no grown-up should feel bullied into violating.
Dear Miss Manners:
I have legal custody of a 17-year-old girl. She is in our homecoming royalty at school and they always announce who the parents are. In her case, how would my husband and I be announced when they say who her parents are?
You could submit the term "guardians," although to audiences hearing this casually, it is likely to suggest that the young lady is out for the day from a prison or mental hospital, with you keeping an eye on her. Miss Manners recommends not worrying about the technical meaning and letting yourselves be referred to as parents, since that is the job you are doing.
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.
(c) 2005, Judith Martin