Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My best friend has a special birthday coming up. He has invited friends to a special dinner. This invitation includes myself, other individuals and some couples. Some are people I know, and some are not. My dilemma is that he did not invite my partner. My partner has known him and his wife as long as I have. Other couples on the guest list include people with whom we have all socialized many times. Initially I thought her name was left off by mistake, so I called him. He explained that there was no mistake; he was inviting only people with whom he felt especially close. He said he did not include her in that category. He said there were also some other couples where he had only invited one of the partners. My partner was devastated by being left out and I feel in a terrible quandary about whether to attend. On one hand I respect and like him so much I feel honored to be invited at all, but on the other I feel my partner's pain and I am also hurt that she was left out. I feel torn two ways -- but I am leaning toward not attending. Can you offer any advice to me and comment on the propriety, or lack of it, in this situation?
DEAR TORN: To restate: You and your partner have known this friend and his wife for the same amount of time. You have spent time with the two of them as couples. There are no underlying problems or conflicts.
Your friend has cherry-picked among his crowd and invited some couples together, but excluded other spouses and partners.
When queried, your friend declared, "I am only inviting people I like the most. You win!" I can't comment on the "propriety" of this exclusion because this is really about a guy celebrating himself by being explicitly mean toward others and placing many of his friends in terrible positions. This is completely outside the guidelines of propriety, which is really all about respect.
If I was your partner, I would respond, "Ewww. Honey, you go if you want; I'm going to the movies." If I were you, I would respond, "It's hard to feel 'honored' by the opportunity to celebrate the life of such a jerk. I'll join you at the movies."
DEAR AMY: I'm in my mid-60s. I will occasionally "re-share" something with a friend/acquaintance. Younger people will say, "I know, you told me that already." This feels hurtful, though it may not be meant that way. When this happens to other people, I let it slide. No one is going to cure me with this borderline rude comment. I take meds that contribute to memory loss. That's not going to change, and neither is the aging process. I'd like some sort of reply that gently steers people away from this thoughtless expression. It's different when someone says, "Oh, yes, I remember we talked about that recently." I'll say, "Oops, senior moment." I'm not deliberately trying to be rude. You are so good at finessing phrases. Can you help? I may be losing some short-term memories, but I won't forget the manners.
Slightly, lightly and politely Demented
DEAR POLITELY: First off, I like you. You can sit by me.
The two responses you cite in your question illustrate perfectly the difference between a gentle, kind response and an abrupt-sounding rebuke.
The best way to respond to a rebuke is to slow things way down with a gentle retort. Say, "I'm sorry, I'm dealing with some memory loss. I really appreciate you tolerating it."
DEAR AMY: Amy, Amy, Amy! I was so disappointed in your answer to "Excited but Guilty," the young woman who was going overseas to teach but whose elderly grandparents were guilting her about it. You helped them send her on the guilt trip of a lifetime, Amy! I am a grandmother, and I say to her, "Go! Live your life. Have adventures. That's what you're supposed to do!"
DEAR GRAN: Scores of awesome grandparents responded. All agree with you. I blew this one.