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Miss Manners: No set timeline for asking for a date

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a 20-year-old wanting to follow manners more closely and inform others in my age range.

What is the proper first-date invitation timing? I remember as a kid being told not to accept a date for the weekend after Wednesday. So should a first-date invitation be given out/accepted for two days or more later?

GENTLE READER: Your honesty about how you intend to apply Miss Manners’ advice makes her leery of offering any.

Correcting one’s friend’s manners is not only rude, but also likely to diminish their numbers. While there is no definite rule about how far in advance a date must be proposed, Miss Manners thinks that would-be suitors who cut it too close are liable to learn that someone else has beaten them to it. She has no objection to your leaving them with this impression – even if it is not strictly true – in the hopes that they will plan ahead next time.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What can one say that sounds like “congratulations,” but is perhaps a bit like offering condolences?

My friend has just volunteered for an unpleasant and difficult job at a large organization we’re both active in. It is the sort of job that involves telling people “no” to things that they believe are reasonable, except that they are not in possession of relevant confidential information.

I happen to know that he offered to do this solely because he learned that the few original candidates were entirely unsuitable for a position requiring sensitivity and tact.

Why he volunteered, however, is not public knowledge. In theory, he is honored that they chose him after interviewing many excellent candidates.

What can I say to him (in public) that will sound like “Congratulations, you must be so pleased to win such an important position” (especially if the people who were not chosen, and who might be feeling disappointed or rejected, are within earshot), but that actually means something closer to “You poor thing, I’m so sorry that you got stuck with this miserable, time-consuming, friendship-destroying, soul-sucking job, even though I agree with you that the other candidates were impossibly unsuitable”?

GENTLE READER: Much as she likes a good challenge, Miss Manners wonders why it is necessary to convey all of this information in a single, public pass. Is your friend planning to make his new duties easier by relocating to an office across town, where neither you, nor anyone else, is likely to see him again? She also wonders what is accomplished by conveying your agreement that the other candidates were unqualified, other than to demonstrate that you have inside knowledge.

Those, however, were not your questions. Approach from an angle that puts you facing your friend but leaves your back to the other inhabitants of the room. Move in close, shake his hand, and say, “Congratulations. That’s wonderful that you got the job. There were so many qualified candidates. It’s a challenging assignment.”

So long as no one else can see you roll your eyes when you speak of the “many qualified candidates,” or smirk at “challenging assignment,” Miss Manners will not report you.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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