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Miss Manners
By Miss Manners | United Feature Syndicate
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Published: 10/6/2007 5:36 PM

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Q. Is it rude to offer to be a surrogate mother? We have some dear friends who have tried almost everything to have a baby. They don't have any family closer than a three-day drive and I'm sure would want to be physically close to the person carrying their child.

We've known them for years, and they've been there to help us with each of our children. Is there a polite way to offer? We've discussed with them their desire for children and their frustration at their infertility.

A. Suppose they decline? Wouldn't it be hard not to take that personally?

There are so many supposable emotional land mines in this situation -- not only now but ever after, should such an offer be accepted -- that Miss Manners' question might seem trivial. But this is the first one to handle, and perhaps a test of the delicacy that such a relationship would require.

Because these are old and close friends who have confided in you, it would not be untoward of you to inquire whether they would consider a surrogate mother. Not you (yet) but any. If they say yes, the next question is whether they would want it to be someone with whom they had a continuing relationship. Then you might want to discuss how they think it might work. And only then, if you find that your ideas about this are compatible, do you say that you would consider it.

The idea here is not to be coy, but to allow everyone to back off without suffering or causing embarrassment when it is merely a theoretical discussion.

Q. When I inquired if I could join a friend on a trip she was taking with her sister and two others, her response was that she "would have to see if there was room for me" and "this trip is not cheap."

I am asking if I was wrong to ask her to accompany her on this trip and also clarify my interpretation of her response to me. It pretty much seemed clear to me that she did not want me to go, and I also didn't know that I was low on the totem pole in our group of friends, apparently. Please help me to understand.

A. It is nice that you asked your friend whether you could come along on a trip she had already planned instead of just popping up with your luggage.

It is not so nice that you decided that the only acceptable answer would be, "Sure, come along, we'll start re-booking everything to include you."

Why is it so hard to understand that even a valued friend might not fit into every trip?

If you want to travel with this lady, Miss Manners suggests that you organize the next trip and invite her along. You will discover that it is quite different for five people to travel together than four, no matter where they are on the totem pole.

2007, United Feature Syndicate