Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My wife and I have been invited to a friend’s 50th birthday party, and the invitation specifies black tie. While I have some very nice suits, I don’t own a tuxedo, and buying one is not in my budget. In fact, this birthday already is costing us too much money, since we’ve bought our friend an expensive gift and we’ll have to spend a night at the hotel where the event is taking place. What should I do? I don’t feel we can decline the invitation to the party – this is an important friendship – but I also don’t want to go in a rented tux.
– I.S., Santa Clara, Calif.
Dear I.S.: What’s wrong with a rental? Not the way you roll?
OK, that’s your call. But then unless you’re willing to ask your friend to excuse you from wearing black tie – and it sounds as if you aren’t – your only option is to decline his invitation. We understand: You don’t want to. But not owning a tux doesn’t release you from the party’s dress code. As much as the jeans-at-fancy-dinners crowd would like to believe otherwise, establishing a dress code is a host’s prerogative, and conforming to it becomes a guest’s obligation upon accepting the invitation.
There would be nothing wrong, however, with sending your regrets to your friend (you needn’t explain why) and then arranging a time to celebrate his birthday in a manner more in line with the constraints of your closet and your checkbook.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My daughter-in-law is blackmailing us. Unless we do nice things for her – in other words, give her money – she denies us access to our grandchildren. I’ve spoken to our son many times about this, but he refuses to believe there’s a problem. (My son, by the way, is well on his way to becoming extremely successful, and I think once he gets there, my daughter-in-law will divorce him and take him for everything he’s worth.) Is there anything my wife and I can do about the situation except grin and bear it? We love our grandchildren, and there’s no way we’d risk losing contact with them.
Dear E.R.: Forget about grinning and bearing it. And forget as well about trying to persuade your son that his wife is blackhearted. What you need to do is insist, in no uncertain terms, that your son accept his responsibility – as a parent and as your child – to ensure that you have access to your grandchildren.
Look, your daughter-in-law may be an awful person, but she is not the sole gatekeeper to these kids. Your son needs to man up and get involved in the process. Don’t allow his unwillingness to acknowledge his wife’s flaws to distract you when you demand that he do so.
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