When Asked to Dinner, Can You Say ‘Maybe’?

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Social Q’s

I am a social person who plans ahead and follows through on my commitments. If I say I’m coming to dinner, I come. But I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that causes pain and serious fatigue. My symptoms are not predictable, so sometimes I have to cancel at the last minute. Is it rude to explain to friends, when accepting invitations, that my health may keep me from their dinners? My wife thinks mentioning illness outside of immediate family is bad form. But if I can’t give a qualified yes, I don’t think I should accept. Thoughts?


I do not roast a chicken lightly. If I invite you to dine at my home and you accept, only to cancel at the last minute, after all the shopping and chopping and planning have been miraculously achieved, I will be annoyed with you. So, your notion of conditional acceptance intrigues me.

Also, I disagree with your wife, but only to the extent that you are comfortable telling hosts about your medical issue. There’s no shame in it. But it’s still your call. (You also get to decide how specific you want to be.) Still, if I invited you, “chez moi,” and you said: “I’d love to, but I’m having some medical issues that force me to take things day by day. Can we confirm that morning?” — I would agree in a hot second.

I would also feel greater empathy with you for having confided in me. In truth, I might shift the location to a restaurant to cut down on the preparation of possibly needless marinades. But you would have a free pass in my book. I only want the best for people I like and whose challenges I know about. We all have them.

Something Borrowed?

Please settle a fight with my mother. I am 25 and self-supporting — though I have fallen behind on my credit card and student loan payments. I have been invited to a childhood friend’s wedding. She is the first in our group to marry, and I am super-psyched about it. It feels like a big milestone. I want to buy a special dress for the occasion that costs $400. My mother thinks this is irresponsible. Your thoughts?


Do you think it’s fun for your mom (and me) to be financial nags? And not to be a meanie, but you are not really supporting yourself if you are falling behind on your credit cards and student debt. So, it’s hard to see how adding another $400 to your tab is a clever move. (It’s even harder to see how another woman’s wedding is a milestone for you.) Mom: 1, Suzanne: 0.

Still, I get your festive motivation. Let me share a silly riddle I heard from a 9-year-old: “Q: If Mississippi let Missouri wear her New Jersey, what would Delaware? A. Idaho. Alaska.” From the mouth of babes, a possible solution to your fashion quandary: Perhaps your mom or aunt or some pal has a sparkly wrap or necklace or chic quelque chose that you could borrow for the wedding? It would be more cost effective and still convey your super-psychedness.

Pride Goes Too Far

My son and daughter-in-law are the parents of our only grandchild. They live 800 miles away, so my husband and I see them infrequently. They live in the state where we grew up and maintain several friendships. But we don’t keep up with these friends as much as we should. Our grandchild is turning 1, and her parents are planning a celebration. Dare I ask my son to invite our old friends who haven’t met the baby yet? Their attendance would require some travel, but it would be a great chance for them to meet her.


Let me get this straight: You are not bothering to go to the party, but you want old friends (whom you scarcely keep up with) to drag themselves to some strange baby’s birthday celebration? Absolutely not! Your pride has run off with your sense, Grandma. If you change your mind about attending the party, send these old pals invitations: “We’d love to see you and introduce you to our granddaughter.” Otherwise, skip it.

Thin in the Midwest

I am a single woman in Manhattan. I was just offered a great job in Chicago. When I went to visit, I was struck by how thin I was there, compared with women in New York. Is this a horrible reason to take the job?


I assume you are joking (sort of). But having come from a spate of New York City meals where women and men seemed to believe that balsamic vinegar and mustard are two of the major food groups, I get it, sister. We all have self-image issues, and you probably won’t escape yours by moving to the Windy City. (Off the top of my head, I can think of 50 qualities more important than “thin.”) Still, you mentioned that the job in Chicago is “great,” and I’ve always loved visiting. So, you tell us: What have you got to lose?

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