Is A Snub Always Homophobia?

Steven PetrowQuestion for Steven:I’m wondering how you would handle this situation. About three weeks ago I asked a straight friend from college (we graduated four years ago) if she would be a member of our wedding party later this year. As a reply, she sent a quick text back saying, “no, can’t.” That’s the last I’ve heard from her and we’re beginning to wonder whether she declined because it’s a same-sex ceremony. Should I just text her and ask?

Steven Answers: As someone over 25, I do understand that both talking on the phone and using emailing to reach out and touch someone are completely passé! And that texting — if not Facebooking — is the preferred medium to “converse” but, unfortunately, these technologies don’t always do the necessary job in promoting “communication.” That’s why my first recommendation would be to give your friend a call on her cell and drop the texting for the time being. Sometimes we need to hear both the real words and the real emotion imbued in that language.

Still, it’s common to feel perplexed or even snubbed when you’re turned down by an attendant of your choice – especially with no explanation. But the truth is that there is a whole range of reasons why someone might need to decline such an invitation, reasons that have nothing to do with their views on same-sex relationships.

Among the most likely explanations is the expense of participating – especially as we’re still coming out of a recession. Since attendants generally pay for their own transportation, accommodations, and wedding outfits, this can be a deal breaker for younger or unemployed people — like those recently out of college. Others may need to turn down the invitation due to work conflicts or because they can’t take vacation time (if they need to travel).

So, when you call your friend (if you take my advice), try an open-ended inquiry such as this: “We were really excited about having you as part of our wedding and are disappointed that you can’t be with us. Is there anything we can do to change your mind?” Perhaps it is the cost, after all, and she was embarrassed about mentioning it. If so, consider taking some steps to help her – for instance, finding a friend she can stay with or picking up the cost of her bridesmaid’s dress. That approach is generally much more effective than questions that can be taken as confrontational, such as “Why won’t you come?” or “Is it because we’re gay?”

The uptick in the number of same-sex ceremonies lately has reportedly softened many hearts—but also kicked up some anti-gay hostility. But it’s in nobody’s interest to make assumptions. And, as I’ve often said, not every slight is the result of homophobia. Until you know more, blame it on her smart phone.

Steven Petrow is the go-to source on contemporary etiquette, as cited by The New York Times, People, Time, and NPR. His sometimes gentle, sometimes snarky, always insightful advice has made him a nationally recognized expert on modern manners. In addition to his three prize-winning etiquette books, Steven writes the “Civil Behavior” column for The New York Times and is a sought-after speaker on all matters of civilized living in the 21st century.