DEAR MISS MANNERS: It seems like every time I turn around I am getting an invite from a friend to attend an in-home sales party. I personally despise these parties. I think the merchandise is overpriced, the products are not that great, and I cringe when I get the invite from a friend because I feel obligated to attend and buy something.

I put these parties up there with going to the ob/gyn.

I know this is a way for people to earn extra income and that times are tough with the economy, but I keep getting invited to these parties, and frankly, I don’t want to get invited. Period.

How do I gently and kindly let people know that I appreciate the invite, and I think it’s great they are starting a business of their own and I value their friendship, but I do not want any part of these, and to not include me in the future? I am running out of excuses not to attend, and some people just do not take the hint!

GENTLE READER: No excuses are necessary. Miss Manners assures you that there is no kind and gentle way to tell people that you approve of their choices in general, but do not care to socialize with them.

‘’I’m so sorry that I’m not going to be able to make it,” is enough. To preserve the friendships, and incidentally to set a counter-example, you might invite them to visit you without having to bring their wallets.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I went out on a first date with a woman (I’m a woman too) with whom I had shared a lively and interesting e-mail correspondence for several days. We connected on a dating Web site, where she had a funny and well-written online profile.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I discovered that she was quite tall and more masculine-looking then she had appeared in her pictures. It was apparent to me that she was transgendered.

However, it seemed quite impolite of me to ask, for instance, when she was talking about her childhood, “So, you were a boy then, right?”

I was in enough doubt that I just kept looking for clues, pro and con, as the conversation went on. She finally told me and expressed some incredulity that I didn’t know, as I had said a few things that implied the assumption that she was a girl since birth.

I think she was a bit offended, though I can’t imagine for what. I would think that would be the sort of thing you’d put in your profile. What should I have said?

GENTLE READER: “I would have considered it rude to make any assumptions.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What does it mean when a man gives you a single red rose?

GENTLE READER: If you are on television’s “The Bachelor,” Miss Manners understands it to mean that you are allowed to remain for another episode — or marry him, depending on ratings and where they are in the season.

In real life, it is a romantic gesture, the deeper significance of which can surely be explained by the man himself.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin