DEAR MISS MANNERS: I asked a favor of my 25-year-old stepdaughter, who lives with us, to see if she could watch my son for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning so I could go play golf. Her mother was going to the beauty salon.
She replied: “I usually go to boot camp on Saturday. I was kind of excited to go this week since I haven’t been able to go in like a month, but I guess I can skip it if you really need me to watch him.”
I was very upset with this answer, because I feel like it is worse to say yes with a qualifier that says no than to just say no in the first place. My wife and I had a huge fight about this, and she doesn’t think there was anything wrong with the answer and told me I had no right to be upset.
I have to admit that I would probably have been upset with a straight no since I don’t ask too many favors, but to me this was worse, and I was really offended. Am I overreacting?
GENTLE READER: As you admit, the only answer that would not have upset you would be an unqualified yes. So Miss Manners surmises that although you say you were asking a favor, you thought of it as issuing a command.
Perhaps your stepdaughter knows this from previous experience, and the subtext is, “I will if you insist, but you should know what I’m giving up just so you can play golf.” But even that is only a tone away from the reasonable response that you each have something else planned, and she would yield if yours was more important.