DEAR AMY: Twelve years ago, my husband and I moved to a new city. We settled in, started a family and set about becoming a part of the community. In the beginning, when I received an invitation somewhere, I was excited to go and hopeful that I would make some new friends. I soon realized that most of these invitations were to parties where something was being sold: jewelry, home-goods, kitchenware, etc. I have never felt the need to spend money at these parties on overpriced things that I don’t need just for the sake of lining someone else’s pocket. I stopped going to these parties and have grown to resent these invitations. I feel insulted when I receive them now. It’s a reminder that these people have never bothered to extend an invitation for lunch or coffee, but always remember me when they want people with money to come to their parties. I was just invited to a graduation party for a child I’ve never met, thrown by a woman who has never invited me anywhere else except to these “buy” parties. I look at it as a money grab and plan to decline the invite. Am I overreacting?
DEAR FEELING USED: Yes, you are overreacting. Speaking as someone who receives countless “invitations” to donate my time and (various) talents to individuals or causes, I well understand the annoyance of feeling forced to respond to an invitation that is actually a transaction. But then I remember that people have the right to ask anything of anyone.
You can respond, or not. What you shouldn’t do is resent the inclusion, especially if the person offering it doesn’t know that you don’t want to be included.
When it comes to sales parties, you respond with a simple, “Please take me off your invitation list.”
My theory is that the sort of people who engage in sales parties (women, mostly), are also social self-starters who constantly connect without regard to the nuance of any given situation. And so the woman who invited you to the graduation party for the child you’d never met just has a list of people she works from. She throws her invitations into the air, hoping for a 30 percent acceptance rate.
It is also possible that she likes you and thinks of you as a friend, but is numb to the intimacy that graduation celebrations generally reflect.
You never mention making any social inroads, yourself. To make friends, you have to be brave enough to risk a bid for intimacy, understanding that (in your neighborhood) your invitation for coffee might be misconstrued to be a franchise opportunity. All the same, I hope you’ll try.
DEAR AMY: My family has a reunion coming up. I volunteered to order all the T-shirts, without any discussion or agreement on payment. What is proper etiquette? Should every family member pay for their shirt? Or, since I volunteered, am I totally responsible for the cost? I have no problem absorbing the cost, but some family members insist on paying for their shirts, while some have stayed mum. Do you have any guidance?
DEAR CONFUSED: I don’t see this as an etiquette question, so much as a communication issue.
You volunteered to take on this task, and you never followed up to let people know how you would like to handle paying for the shirts. So yes, I can imagine that some family members would assume that you have generously donated these reunion keepsakes.
Other family members might not realize that you have paid for them out of your pocket, assuming that they were purchased through the family reunion fund.
If you can shoulder the cost, you should give these shirts to family members. If some offer or insist on paying, it would be generous of you to donate that money to offset some other reunion costs.
DEAR AMY: “Disapproving Wife” didn’t like the fact that her husband was giving a local homeless man (who claimed to be dying) a beer every day. Amy, when my father had a stroke, he was forced to stop smoking, cold turkey. I followed the doctor’s directives and denied him. He went through terrible withdrawal for the whole last three months of his life. If I had known then what I know now, I would have given him cigarettes at every opportunity. In addition to his other health problems at the time, he was dying.
Learned Too Late
DEAR LEARNED TOO LATE: I hear you.