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Friend late paying 'debt' for party

Dear Miss Manners: I called a friend because I felt it was time for a casual "catching up." She will be getting married in the fall, so I inquired about wedding plans.

I also brought up my birthday event, telling her to expect an invitation. This led me down the path of my birthday event from last year, and this is where things get interesting.

Last year, I organized a rather expensive event and told people I invited that in return for their attendance, I would require $15. Most people paid me that night, and everyone else reimbursed me within the next couple months. That is, everyone but Isabel and her boyfriend.

Upon being reminded of the debt during the phone call, she did not sound annoyed. A couple of pleasantries were then exchanged, and that was the end of the call.

A few days later, I received the following cursive handwritten note in the mail with a $20 bill and a $10 bill enclosed:

"I was unaware of my supposed year-long debt, so $30 is enclosed. To prevent such further misunderstanding and apparent lack of sleep, please feel free not to invite me to future events. Regards . . ."

I am wondering if I am right taking exception to what I feel to be needlessly malicious and passive-aggressive correspondence. The usage of the term "supposed" is completely erroneous, and the remark about "apparent lack of sleep" has no grounds, since I said nothing to that effect.

Also, the final phrase in the note is especially impolite given the sarcastic politeness with which it is written.

I can assure you, I was nothing but casual and calm when reminding her of the debt. Granted, I am in the wrong for bringing it up so far removed from the event, but the passage of time does not excuse money owed. In your opinion, what should be my response?

Gentle Reader: A resolution to learn from the experience.

The Honor Myself birthday party, complete with money-collecting guest-of-honor-host, has become so commonplace that many do not stop to think just how vulgar it is. But there could hardly be a greater perversion of hospitality than declaring oneself the guest of honor and then charging people to celebrate your own birthday.

Admittedly, nobody should have accepted without agreeing to your terms. But your seeming to have been brooding over this for a year (which is what was meant by the reference to sleeplessness) is a crude reminder that your hospitality was not freely offered.

Let us hope your friend remembers this as she plans her wedding and does not suggest a return, in either money or dry goods, from her guests.


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