Please send your etiquette-based questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: “Ms. Proprietypants.” The archives can be found here.
I’m currently on a Bachelorette Party Planning list and, snaps to Mses. Markowitz and Moss because these emails could have come straight out of their column. The group has elected to go on an out-of-town weekend that doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy or be able to afford, so I said no! Easy enough. But I expect to get a phone call from the guest of honor asking why I won’t be there (…not super cool, but she’s great in other ways!), and I’m wondering what to tell her. I think that if I mention money (I’m a grad student), she/her fiancé might offer to cover me. I’m not looking to score a free trip (as planned, the weekend isn’t something I’d choose to do on my own behalf even if it were free), but if it weren’t going to cost me anything, I’d certainly have less of an excuse not to go just to make my friend happy.
On the other hand, I’m not super comfortable doing anything where I can’t pay my own way. And there’s a risk she offers to split it with me or something similar, which would still be too much for me to spend (I think the events will cost between ten and twenty times what I could have done without it becoming a financial burden.) Maybe I should just either lie and say I’m busy that weekend (and cross fingers that they don’t end up changing it to a different weekend), or try to gin up some gentle way to say I just don’t want to go, à la, “You know, I’m really not the best bachelorette party-goer, you will have a much better time with girls who are really into it.”
What do you think?
I am a little confused. Is the bride your real friend? Are you a bridesmaid? Are you related to the bride? How did you get on this list? Is the bride on this list? Can you just hit unsubscribe from this list?
I am not confused about why you would wish to avoid a bachelorette weekend. I have to admit, I have a hard time figuring out why anyone wouldn’t want to avoid such drudgery tarted up as SO FUN! And I am willing and able to help you avoid it. But it’s hard to know what tactic to take without knowing a little more about your relationship and obligations to the bride. You are right in suspecting that I am not pleased that she’s going to ask you why you can’t come, but since you think she will, let’s deal with it. I assume you guys aren’t rocking BFF jewelry, since you don’t seem to feel all that tortured about skipping out, nor do you seem at all inclined to bring up your reasons with her before she asks. But I think doing that is actually your best bet.
Generally, I think it’s polite to personalize regrets, even when it’s not strictly necessary to do so. If you sent your decline to the organizer or to the planning list, I suggest that you send the bride an approximation of the following email:
“So excited for your upcoming wedding to AwesomeFace, wooo! I just wanted to let you know that though I’m sad that I won’t be able to join for Hard Rock Biloxi’s “Party All Night!” Package Weekend, we should make a plan for me to buy you a drink sometime soon [if she doesn’t live locally, this can be a more open-ended offer; if she does, suggest specific times.] I hope you guys have so much fun in Mississippi and I was psyched to be invited, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you in June!” [If the bride isn’t on the list and you haven’t communicated directly with her about your absence, rephrase so that you are letting her know that you won’t be able to join.]
No, you are not actually “sad,” as it were, to miss this grisly pageant, but it is polite to say so, and one can imagine a situation in which you are, say “sad” that it is not going to be better and freer. Perhaps you are “sad” that you live in this world of hollow, oppressive, and tedious rituals that renders the pricey bachelorette weekend commonplace? I know I am!!! This pre-emptive email is handily both polite and evasive; it doesn’t really invite a lot of discussion, and it lets her know that you’re not passing out explanations willy-nilly. (I think maybe you were looking for a magical excuse that would shut down further discussion–and a direct and polite decline is the closest thing… but beyond that you’re kind of chasing a unicorn.) If she presses you further, you should say both that it’s a busy time of year (you are in graduate school; surely you must have some papers to write?) and also that you can’t afford it. If she offers to pay, no big deal: explain that it’s so kind of her and you so appreciate the offer, but there’s a lot going on at the moment and you’re going to have to miss out–same thing if she offers to split it with you. Politely, firmly, and breezily stick to your underfunded, overworked guns.
I feel like this should be effective–how much does she really care? (Why is she so obsessed with you??? Is there something clandestine and juicy happening that you didn’t mention?) But if she keeps pressing you, nothing will be gained by avoiding honesty. Social scripts like “I can’t make it” and “It’s a busy spring” exist for good reason–they lubricate sticky situations and they spare delicate feelings. But if she is insisting on forcefully wiping off the lube after every application (I am regretting this metaphor)/sticking her feelings in the middle of the road, there’s no point in said stilted scripts. If she is really pushing the issue, you need to tell her what you told me: “I can’t afford it, I’m not comfortable taking your money, and also I won’t have, or be, very fun. But I love you and am looking forward to your wedding!”
I am worried, though, that you are a bridesmaid. If so, and if she offers to pay, you might want to consider going. I believe one should make a little extra effort if the invitation of that dubious honor has been extended–and accepted. Make no mistake, I cannot and will not strongly insist that your answer should be different in this case, because to me bridesmaids are a fairly goofy institution that invites a lot of trouble and needlessly hurt feelings on all sides. It’s tough, then, for me to go around barking about how such taffeta-clad minions MUST behave. Just consider reconsidering, if that is indeed the situation? The worst that can happen is that you have kind of a shitty weekend and you feel weird about being poor–something that could easily happen on the regular without making your friend So Happy!
I have long wondered what the appropriate response to “thank you” is. I once knew a charming girl from California who responded to everyone with a cheery “of course!” I had never heard that before, and loved it. But on the other hand, I have always wanted to be one of those people who responds with “you’re welcome”—which always seems to require a presence of mind I do not have. So, what’s the ideal response? Or does it depend on the situation?
First off, it is never wrong to say “you’re welcome.” That said, it’s probably good to say it lightly most of the time, because the passage of time has resulted in its underuse, and as a result you might come off sounding more formal and/or as if whatever they are thanking you for was a really freaking big deal. But I maintain that it is all-purpose.
“Of course” is fine, but think about it before using it on its own, no matter how lovely and salty and wind-swept and blond the hair of the charming Californian was. Highly acceptable in response to:
“Thank you [for holding the door.]”
“Thank you [for the bottle of wine, kind dinner guest.]”
“Thank you [for handing me the remote from the coffee table because you are 18 inches closer to it.]”
On its own, however, it is a somewhat less acceptable response to:
“Thank you [for watching my despondent toddler while I gave birth for 45 hours.]”
“Thank you [for picking up my mail while I vacationed tropically and you did not.]”
Because those things are not actually a matter of course, nor were they “no problem”* (and they are never “sure.” “Sure” sucks.) In such cases, in which you actually went to some trouble, you may wish to elaborate. “Of course–it’s always so fun to have Maisie around; I hope you and Sir Claude had a blast and a half!” Elaboration is also good when you deploy a warm “you’re so welcome,” but is less necessary.
But with any of these, your… wait for it… tone is the most important thing! Raise it. Sound genuine, and do not affect the regal air of one who has been greatly inconvenienced but is long-suffering and/or benevolent.
*I concede that “It was no problem” is useful if the thanker is operating under the misbegotten belief that a non-problem was actually a serious problem. Otherwise, no.