Advice | Miss Manners: Cousin always invites me to dinner and then cancels

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By usawebstories

Dear Miss Manners: I have a cousin who calls almost weekly to invite me over for dinner during the upcoming weekend — but nine times out of 10, the invitation gets rescinded or canceled. After I accept, she says she’ll call later in the week to confirm in case she gets busy. (I don’t understand the need to confirm, since I’ve already accepted, and she’s the one inviting me.)

Usually, she’ll call on the day of the dinner and give some excuse: She and her husband are tired from a late party the night before; her daughter is having a bad day and doesn’t feel like company; they had a busy day and won’t have time to cook; or they invited several other couples over and there won’t be room for me.

Sometimes there is no excuse, just: “Sorry, it doesn’t work for us.” Often, she’ll ask me to come over the next night instead — and most of the time, that’s canceled, too (once, when I was five minutes from their house after a 45-minute drive there).

Other than something serious and unexpected, like an illness or a house fire, isn’t an invitation an invitation, period? And is confirmation necessary? Note that I’ve stopped accepting her invitations, and now thank her and regretfully cite other plans or a big project at work. The invitations keep coming, but now with a tinge of annoyance.

If the annoyance becomes more than a tinge, and you get asked outright about your absences, Miss Manners suggests you say, “I miss seeing you, but always feel like such a burden when you have to make last-minute cancellations. Once your schedule calms down and you feel certain you can make a commitment, please do let me know.”

And if you once again get hoodwinked, at least you will have been sufficiently warned.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a volunteer docent at a nonprofit arts organization, and I give public online presentations. Afterward, fellow docents (some of whom I don’t personally know) email me to say something like, “Your presentation was great. Thank you for doing it.”

Must I respond? And if so, how? Both “thank you” and “you’re welcome” seem to be called for.

They are. Or perhaps, “So kind of you to say so.”

Presumably, these fellow docents know the effort it takes to do a good job at these presentations. Miss Manners therefore thinks their kindness should be gratefully acknowledged. And noted, so that you can thank them in kind when it is their turn.

Dear Miss Manners: What would be an appropriate response to, “What do you do during the day?” This has happened more than once, and I don’t want to insult anyone.

I’m 75 and retired. Due to health issues and a lack of friends, I don’t do much at all. But I can’t say that, so I almost always make something up. That doesn’t feel right, either. Any advice on what to say when they ask this?

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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