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Miss Manners: New mom frets over invitations

Dear Miss Manners: I’m a new mother, trying my best to keep up with all the new demands that motherhood brings. And I just finished reading a column in which you said that “Maybe” was never an appropriate response when you RSVP. I admit that I have been saying “Maybe” to events lately. I would really like to attend these events if possible, but if I need to stay home to nurse my son, then I wouldn’t be able to attend. I assume that when my son is older and on a schedule, it will become easier for me to commit. But what should I do in the meantime? Decline all invitations? Say yes, and then back out at the last minute if I cannot attend?

Gentle Reader: While Miss Manners is sympathetic to the pressing and unpredictable demands of new motherhood, she also cautions against relying on your child as a perpetual excuse. The unfortunate result could be diminishing invitations.

While it is still early, you may want to find a way to reconcile your social life now. If finding an alternative food source for your son is not an option, then, yes, decline invitations until you and your son can find a mutually satisfying schedule (backing out at the last minute will not be looked upon kindly more than once). Your hosts would likely be much happier knowing that your status is temporary, than thinking of you as simply an unreliable guest.

Trying to measure ‘I’m sorry’

Dear Miss Manners: How do I react when people say, “I’m sorry,” but they really are not, and I do not want to forgive them?

An example – a friend or client is running late and it inconveniences me greatly. They show up and throw out a quick, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m late (insert excuse).”

Must I reply, “That’s OK” – even if it isn’t?

Or what about when I am out with a friend and she takes an unnecessary call or text on her phone and leaves me standing there awkwardly? She turns to me afterward and nonchalantly says, “Oh, I’m sorry … blah, blah, blah.”

The “I’m sorry” in these and other situations feels insincere. It seems to just pop out of their mouths and not mean anything. What can I reply other than “That’s OK” when it is not!?

Gentle Reader: People also say, “How are you?” as a nicety and rarely listen to the answer. Miss Manners acknowledges that a halfhearted apology is indeed frustrating, but saying, “I’m sorry,” is better than not.

However, as long as you are not outright rude in your reaction, responding, “That’s OK,” after an annoyance is not strictly necessary. “Oh, I’m sure it must have been important” – said without sarcasm – should convey the necessary inconvenience while still giving the offenders the benefit of the doubt.