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Excuses need not apply to husbands

Dear Miss Manners: I understand that when declining a social invitation, social convention generally dictates that a polite yet plausible excuse be offered even if it isn't the real reason you are declining (e.g. I have to stay home and wash my hair), and that the person receiving such an excuse should accept it graciously and not question it or propose alternative solutions.

Is the same etiquette appropriate for requests made by a spouse, or may a spouse be more direct?

For example, suppose my husband invites me out to dinner, and I decline by saying my high heel has broken so I have no appropriate shoes to wear. Should he accept this as a final declination, or is it all right for him to propose a solution to my problem? For example if he says in reply, "You can wear your tennis shoes. This is not a particularly formal restaurant," is he being helpful by suggesting a solution to my problem, or is he being pushy when he should simply accept that I don't wish to go out?

Gentle Reader: He is being bewildered: "Honey, are we having guessing games for dinner again?"

You have your manners reversed. Your husband has a legitimate interest in knowing what pleases you and what doesn't; your hosts are just trying to get a body count.

Miss Manners assures you that no excuse is necessary when declining a social invitation -- only thanks and apologies: "I'm so very sorry we can't be there -- you are kind to invite us." One of the joys of marriage is the ability to say, "Oh, I don't know, I just don't feel like going out tonight. OK?"


Sorry, get your own phone

Dear Miss Manners: Twice in the last week, I have been asked by complete strangers if they could borrow my cell phone. Both of these individuals were male and may simply have needed to make a call.

However, both of these individuals made me uneasy, and I feared that they could possibly run away with my cell phone and then I would need to replace it at great expense and quickly too, as I rely on it for my work as a home care nurse.

What is the most polite way to decline this type of request? As much as I love to help people solve their problems, when a red flag rises for me, I do not believe that I need to put myself at risk in order to do so.

Gentle Reader: As Miss Manners understands it, neither of these petitioners was lying pinned under a car, pleading for a way to get help. If there is no plausible distress, you would not be rude in saying, "I'm so sorry, but I never lend it. If this is an emergency, I can call for you. Perhaps there is a store nearby that will let you make a quick call."

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