DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I moved to a new neighborhood. While we have acquainted ourselves with most of the neighbors and will stop for a brief chat when we see them outdoors, we would not consider any of them to be friends yet at this stage of the game.
The neighbors directly next door to us have done some inconsiderate things such as blocking our driveway, asking our afternoon visitor to move his car so they could park their holiday trailer on the street (which is not legal in our city), allowing their contractors to walk all over our freshly laid sod in the front yard, etc. We have, with gritted teeth, remained polite through it all, but they are definitely not people we would eventually like to be friends with.
Three days ago, while we were outside building our new deck, the wife called across from her deck, saying, “We are having a retirement party for Doug tomorrow starting at 4:30. Please drop by. All of his co-workers will be stopping in.”
Miss Manners, I was flummoxed. I felt caught off guard, and stuttered out, “If we are around, we may drop in, but I’m not sure what our plans are with our ongoing renovations.”
I had no intention of dropping in. Afterward, I commented to my husband that it was an odd invitation to offer in the first place, given that we barely know these people and we certainly don’t know Doug’s co-workers. It would have been extremely awkward even if we wanted to build a friendship, but we don’t.
The wife did not invite me accidentally, as sometimes happens during a conversation where you happen to mention a party you’re having and then feel obligated to include the person to whom you’re speaking. I had my back to her, laying deck boards, and she called out my name to get my attention. It was deliberate.
Am I wrong in thinking it was a strange invitation to offer? And whether or not it was strange, how should I have responded to the verbal invitation in the moment?
GENTLE READER: How dare your neighbor issue you a deliberate invitation? The actual nerve.
Or so you seem to believe.
Miss Manners understands that previous inconsiderate actions by this neighbor may make you suspicious now, but from her perspective, it seemed like a jovial enough invitation.
Well, perhaps there is a slight hidden agenda, but one that is a long honored neighborly trick and therefore hardly noteworthy. That is, that if the party got raucous, you would have been invited or at least forewarned and therefore more sympathetic to the noise.
In the interest of being reciprocally neighborly, Miss Manners suggests that you follow up on Doug’s retirement party and tell her you are sorry you missed it. Even if you clearly are not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If one wanted to refer to “the gentleman/lady in the corner,” how might one do so without assuming a gender?
GENTLE READER: “The person in the corner.” Or “the gentle person,” if you want to add flourish.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website www.missmanners.com.