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Miss Manners: Being asked out for coffee? That’s a date.

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Dear Miss Manners: I'm a 23-year-old young lady, and I'm wondering what to do in the following situation:

A young man that I met through school or a mutual friend asks me out for coffee. He asks me via email, not face to face. He never calls it a "date,'' so I'm unsure whether he's asking me out on a date.

Even though I think he seems like an all-right guy, I'm not interested in dating him or in having a relationship with him because he's just not what I'm looking for in a romantic partner.

Should I decline the invitation to coffee, and if so, how do I do so politely? I'm hesitant to decline on the grounds that I'm not interested in dating the young man, when I'm not even sure that the invitation is a date. And I also feel that it would be rude to preface my response to his invitation with the question, "Are you asking me out on a date?''

The invitation you describe is for a date.

Miss Manners realizes this will elicit a howl from young men and young women alike, protesting that there are a million other possible explanations. She challenges you to name them.

The good news is that coffee is a trial date, less serious than a meal. Accepting either one does not commit you to a second date — or anything else. If you do not wish to go, explain firmly that while you appreciate the offer, you cannot accept. Do not offer an excuse, particularly not the one about his not being what you are looking for in a romantic partner.

The same response should be given to any follow-up explanations that you have misunderstood his intent. Note that while you may, possibly, have misunderstood the first offer, any subsequent ones will make clear that you did not.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a friend who gave birth to a beautiful little girl six weeks ago. Every Sunday, we watch our husbands play softball, and she has taken to changing her daughter's diaper on the table in the eating area. She uses a pad under her, but I feel this is very disrespectful; not only is it where people eat, but the restroom offers a changing table.

The last time we had the couple over for dinner, she changed her on our dining room table! The next time she went to change her (this time I knew beforehand, and didn't just walk in to see it), I mentioned, "You can use Keith's (my 2-year-old's) room to change her.''

Her response was "No, that's okay. I have a changing pad.'' And proceeded to once again change her on the table where my kids and I eat.

Understanding that as a first-time mom she is emotional and stressed out, how can I politely express my concerns?

By changing your wording. "You can use Keith's room'' sounds optional — as well as designed for the mother's comfort, not your own — which is how it was understood. A friendly, but firm, "Please use Keith's room; I'd like to bring the food in here,'' is clearer.

While this approach is more difficult to use at the ballpark, Miss Manners thinks it likely that even worse things have happened on a public picnic table than a padded diaper change.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com.

2018, by Judith Martin

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