Life Advice



Responding To An Error-Riddled Invite

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the youngest of three brothers. My oldest brother and I have never gotten along, and one of the many issues at the core of the disagreement was my coming out many years ago.

I have been with my partner for 32 years, and we married 12 years ago. We had a small, lovely wedding and, out of courtesy, my brother and his wife were invited. We did not receive any recognition of the invitation. When he heard that a cousin had attended, his remark to me was, "I didn't realize it was a real wedding."

He has six children, and one of his sons is now getting married. In the past, I have been within earshot of this nephew spouting homophobic comments. (Normally, I only hear from him when he is raising money for something.) I recently received a "Save the Date" for his wedding. The preprinted envelope had my last name wrong, and the address was also incorrect -- reducing a four-digit number to just three digits. I am really surprised the envelope made it to my mailbox. My spouse's name was nowhere to be found.

I have no intention of going to this wedding, but how do I address the fact that they got my last name and address wrong? My preference is just to ignore the whole situation -- and imply that the mislabeled envelope had ended up in the dead-letter file and that I never received it. Is this an acceptable response?

GENTLE READER: The proper response to an unwelcome wedding invitation is a neutral letter regretting the fact that you will not -- for unnamed reasons -- be able to attend.

But Miss Manners believes you knew that. Ignoring the letter will be interpreted as what it is: retaliation. The possibility that it confused the post office is a defense for later, not an explanation for now.

Would it not be more satisfying to be formally correct, spelling and all?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The phrase "Can I borrow you?" has always made me feel awkward, as if I were a lawnmower or a ballpoint pen that happens to be useful at the moment.


Am I being too sensitive, or is this actually rude? I'm happy to help, but is there a good way to respond to this query that doesn't reinforce the use of the phrase?

GENTLE READER: The phrase is familiar -- both in the sense of being commonplace and of being informal. Miss Manners uses the second sense when she agrees that there is a low-level rudeness in preserving the cheeky informality of the playground into adulthood.

As the implied comparison to an inert object is presumably meant to be humorous, rather than insulting, she recommends against an aggressive response. At most, you might say that you would be happy to help tomorrow -- today you are still on loan to grandma for help with her computer.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Copyright 2022 Judith Martin



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