Mother-in-law shouldn’t read too much into text-mes­sage re­sponse


Dear Miss Man­ners: I was sur­prised by my daugh­ter-in-law’s method of de­clin­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to a fam­ily func­tion.

I had sent a text ex­plain­ing that two of the pre­vi­ously in­vited rel­a­tives would not be there due to ill­ness, but that we had plenty of food to con­sume. I re­ceived a text from my daugh­ter-in-law stat­ing that my grand­daugh­ter was “still stuffy, and I would rather stay home where it is warm and comfy and put less mileage on my car.”

The daugh­ter-in-law has de­vel­oped a car in­fat­u­a­tion, and I was hurt by the idea that she would put the car over fam­ily, as well as the im­pli­ca­tion that my house is not “warm and comfy.” I think I should also ex­plain that I jump in the car and drive that dis­tance to babysit my won­der­ful grand­daugh­ter at least once a week.

Am I be­ing too sen­si­tive, or was the text un­nec­es­sar­ily rude? We have al­ways had a good re­la­tion­ship. Tex­ting is so won­der­fully

ef­fi­cient be­cause it strips away both for­mal­ity and con­text, some­times to a lu­di­crous de­gree.

Sug­gest­ing your daugh­ter-in­law come over be­cause some­one has to eat all that roast beef, for ex­am­ple, might not have been the most gra­cious in­vi­ta­tion of all time. Or it might have been un­der­stood as light­hearted, in­fam­ily ban­ter.

Which­ever is the case, Miss Man­ners would as­sume that your daugh­ter-in-law was an­swer­ing in kind, and perhaps should not be taken en­tirely lit­er­ally. A more im­por­tant ques­tion is: At what point was the re­fusal made? Re­fus­ing an in­vi­ta­tion is not rude, but can­cel­ing af­ter hav­ing ac­cepted is.

Dear Miss Man­ners: When I held a two-day yard sale, one gentle­man bought sev­eral things the first day and told me that he would be back the next day to ne­go­ti­ate the price of an ad­di­tional item. He did not say what time he would re­turn.

I gave him my busi­ness card, but he did not contact me. About two hours into the sale the next day, an­other gentle­man made an of­fer on the ob­ject, which I ac­cepted.

An hour af­ter that, the first gentle­man re­turned and was up­set that it was no longer avail­able. He still pur­chased a cou­ple more things, and I threw

in a few small free items.

Was I wrong not to hold the ob­ject un­til the first gentle­man re­turned? What are the rules of eti­quette for such sit­u­a­tions? Those who are un­trou­bled by

am­bi­gu­ity may rea­son­ably as­sert that as the first gentle­man did not ex­plic­itly ask you to hold the item, there was no obli­ga­tion for you to do so. (His as­ser­tion that he would re­turn to ne­go­ti­ate was not a prom­ise to buy; said ne­go­ti­a­tion might not have been con­sum­mated by a sale.)

Miss Man­ners un­der­stands that there was con­fu­sion all around. Your so­lu­tion — sell­ing to the sec­ond buyer, but also apol­o­giz­ing to, and par­tially com­pen­sat­ing, the first buyer — is both de­fen­si­ble and po­lite. You could, al­ter­na­tively, have ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion to the sec­ond per­son and taken his in­for­ma­tion as a hedge against gentle­man No. 1’s non­reap­pear­ance.

New Miss Man­ners col­umns are posted Mon­day through Satur­day on

wash­ing­ton­­vice. You can send ques­tions to Miss Man­ners at her web­site, miss­man­ You can also fol­low her @Realmiss­man­ners.

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