Dear Miss Manners: Friends have made it very clear that they no longer answer their house phones, nor do they check their e-mail accounts.
My wife works out of town and we travel as a couple a great deal, for business and pleasure. In an effort to keep contact, we have resorted to personal notes.
The results have been disappointing at best. Often we are met with silence, and, on a number of occasions, with anger.
It appears we are to play telephone tag or text their cellphones with invitations or remembrances of major events in their lives. The passing of family, pets, jobs or other events can all be handled in less than 140 characters.
Have our lives become so busy and tied to a cellphone that an attempt to express sympathy, compassion or extend an invitation is to be derided as belonging to another era?
Gentle Reader: By your own account, you have resorted to personal notes not because you believe in a more graceful way of communicating, but rather because no one is answering your e-mails and home voice mails.
Miss Manners sympathizes and suggests that this form the basis of your response to those who object to your handwritten missives.
No taunting allowed
Dear Miss Manners: We are friends with recovering alcoholics who have been sober for more than 10 years. My husband says I should skip my usual glass of wine when dining with them.
I have a severe allergy to dairy products; a small amount can make me sick for days. Our friends know this, but order large bowls of ice cream to finish their meals, commenting on how delicious it is and telling me what a shame it is that I can't have any.
My husband says the wine and the ice cream are not the same issue. Are they?
Gentle Reader: Yes.
The next time your friends are so rude as to taunt you, Miss Manners would consider it a perfect opportunity to point that out.
A limit to updates
Dear Miss Manners: My daughter (age 27) and I had a lengthy, mildly heated debate about returning texts. My daughter says she doesn't have time to respond to every query on how her studies are going.
I feel that anytime someone takes the time to inquire how you are doing, you should get back to that person. I also say it is a reflection of your character.
She totally disagrees.
Gentle Reader: Sometimes, two or more perfectly valid etiquette rules can be contradictory, and one must use judgment to decide which of them takes precedence.
While Miss Manners agrees that inquiries from a friend or family member deserve a response, she wonders how often these updates are being requested. There is also a rule against pestering someone who is trying to work.
"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, www.missmanners.com.