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COVER CHARGE ON PARTY PUTS A LID ON GOOD WISHES

SHARE COVER CHARGE ON PARTY PUTS A LID ON GOOD WISHES

DEAR MISS MANNERS - My husband's cousin sent us a wedding invitation with a formal card "for an evening of dancing following the reception," with the notation "Cover Charge $7 per person/Food and Drink provided."

On top of the plane fare to get there, and the hotel expenses, I find the cover charge a disgrace. We have decided not to attend.When sending our gift, I would like to address my feelings. Is this proper? I could say: "Sorry we couldn't be there to celebrate your special day. I have deducted the $7 charge accordingly."

For family members who are also offended but still plan to attend, should they also deduct the charge and hand it to the couple when dancing? After the first dance?

GENTLE READER - Miss Manners hates to ask you to control yourself, because she thoroughly understands the temptation to which you are being subjected. She, too, would like to point out to these people how much they have perverted the noble impulse of hospitality - and the special generosity that is supposed to motivate people to have their intimates help them celebrate a wedding.

But this would be (1) rude and (2) hopeless. Even if Miss Manners were to allow you to chastise a bridal couple, people this far gone would hardly understand enough to take insult.

This is not to say that you should be participating in this debacle. Declining the invitation is one way out; in this case, you need not send them a present at all. If other offended relatives were to attend the ceremony and reception but decline the paid event afterward, the point would be sufficiently made.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - I am a person of moderate means, quite used to socializing with peers and family, as either a hostess or a guest. My husband is a construction worker. We tend to have several couples over around the fireplace or the picnic table and are given to potluck get-togethers. It suits us fine.

I work for a man who regularly invites us to events at his home and elsewhere, where he entertains personal friends and clients at the same time. He inherited a vast amount of money, land, etc., and also made his own fortune in business.

Our circumstances could not be more different financially or culturally. I am in my late 30s and he is in his early 40s. I discovered that there was speculation in the office that I was hired for my looks, but I later earned respect for my skills from my colleagues.

My employer has an attractive wife, and I am not concerned that the invitations are for any reason other than to include me in the activity.

The problem is that I prefer not to attend any of these functions. Though my boss is pleasant enough to me and we work well together as a team, I have never felt friendship for him. I consider him arrogant and self-centered and choose to keep the relationship strictly business.

I have used so many excuses (some of them were lies) that I am contemplating the next invitation unhappily. I have never attended any function at his invitation in the three years I have worked here.

I tried just saying, "Oh, I'm sorry - we're busy that night." And his response is, "Oh, what are you doing?" So I lie. I've said: "Oh, isn't it funny? We're having a cookout that same day" (hoping he would note the difference between his catered cookout, where I would have to wear a dress and stockings, and my husband would have to wear a suit, and our cookout with T-shirts and jeans, and kids in the blow-up pool).

I don't know what to do next. Shouldn't he have already figured out that I prefer it to be business only? Isn't it a Miss Manners rule that you stop inviting a person after a certain number of refusals?

GENTLE READER - Certainly you should quit fretting over it. Look what you have already spun out of a simple matter of not wanting to socialize with the boss.

There are so many red herrings in your narrative - class conflict, financial rivalries, occupational and stylistic snobbery and sexual harassment - that Miss Manners was almost disappointed to find the actual problem so simple.

Those who do not wish to accept invitations from their bosses - a wise move, in Miss Manners' opinion - need only decline. As your boss seems not to have accepted your repeated refusals (which need not have been accompanied by excuses - "I'm so sorry we can't come" is enough), you should issue a general one.

"You're very kind to keep inviting us, but our family life just doesn't permit us to socialize like that" should do it.