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Miss Manners: My friend keeps gifting plants I can’t keep alive

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Dear Miss Manners: I have a friend who continually brings a potted flower whenever she comes to visit. Although I very much welcome her visits, I have a difficult time caring for plants, and I end up struggling to keep them alive — a struggle I would like to avoid.

Truthfully, a gift of any type is unnecessary. Is there a courteous way of telling my friend, without hurting her feelings, that I do not want plants, and that anything else — or nothing at all — would be perfectly fine?

Show her your dead plant. “I am afraid I am hopeless when it comes to taking care of these. I wouldn’t want our visits to be marred by blood on our mutual hands.”

If this inadvertently results in getting a lesson in plant care, well, you can thank Miss Manners for that later.

Dear Miss Manners: At work, a graphic design position opened up, and I mentioned it to a young person I knew, suggesting she apply. She was studying that field in her college courses, and the position would help start her career. She got the job. We became “work friends,” and things went well.

Later, when my daughter was getting married and wanted to have someone design her invitations, I suggested my young work friend. The design was lovely, my daughter paid her for the invitations and I thought that was that.

But a couple of weeks or so before the ceremony, work friend told me she wanted me to get her and her husband invitations to the wedding. She really wanted to go to the ceremony.

I was taken aback by this request for these reasons: My daughter had only hired her to do a job; my daughter had not invited my work friend and had never even suggested to me that she wanted to; and my daughter had never met my work friend before the meeting about the invitations. Along with those things, it was my daughter’s wedding, and it wasn’t my place to weigh in on who was invited.

I gently stumbled around a bit, talking about how she was hired to do a job, professional relationships vs. personal, etc., and did not comply with her request. I only mentioned it to my daughter after the wedding, and she agreed with me that the request was odd.

I felt like my work friend seriously overstepped her bounds in asking me to do this, and in the hurt feelings she displayed afterward. She became less of a friend and more a co-worker. I was left feeling as if she really had expected me to step in and make that request (demand?) of my daughter. What could I have done better?

Clearly your work friend was rude to try to procure an invitation, so your stumbling was warranted. But, in her mind, your explanation was rubbing in the fact that Work Friend was not Real Friend. And that is why she was insulted.

To lessen the offense, Miss Manners might have suggested instead: “I am afraid it is an intimate wedding.” Notice the word “intimate” is used and not “small,” because your work friend probably knew how many people were invited — if not from the work order, then from the phrasing of the invitation.

“Intimate” implies that only guests who intimately know the couple were included — as subjective as that might be.

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