Bat Mitzvah Bother

Dear Annabel, 

 
I need some help. This is about my niece’s upcoming bat mitzvah. My invitation was addressed to me “and guest.” I’m not dating anyone, and my sister-in-law knows that. 
 
I feel awkward about coming alone (being 42 and the only unmarried person in my generation on both sides of the family). 
 
I decided I would bring a friend (male or female), only the bat mitzvah is in Boston and I’m in Seattle. I thought it would be courteous to explain the situation to my sister-in-law via email. 
 
Her response: “I certainly don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, but please understand that if you bring someone, people are going to assume you’re serious about that person, which may make things even more uncomfortable…. We’ve limited our own friends in order to stay within our budget. I’d really prefer to have people there that are part of the ‘family’ and not just a casual date.”
 
She ended with “do what you need to do.” How do I reply to this?  
 
Also, did I do something wrong here? I checked a few etiquette sites and they said “and guest” means you can bring a date or an escort. 
 
— Sad in Seattle
Dear S.i.S.,
Good gracious. Your sister-in-law sounds like a charmer.
In terms of etiquette, you are absolutely correct.
After all, the invitation was addressed to you “and guest,” not you “and a significant other who meets your hosts’ criteria for a meaningful relationship with long-term potential.”
Please disregard your sister-in-law’s concern that people will assume you’re serious about whomever you bring. This is a family gathering, therefore the people who matter know you and understand the situation.
Unfortunately, your sister-in-law has arranged it so that you’ll feel awkward whether you bring a date or not. Show up single and risk flying solo on the dance floor. Show up attached and risk feeling guilty about your unwelcome escort.
I know you adore your niece, but have you considered sending her a check and spending your would-be travel money on a spa weekend? Maybe you could invent a work emergency….
If that won’t fly, I suggest you bring a friend, if only to act as a buffer against certain insensitive relatives. Your reply to your sister-in-law should go something like this:
“After much consideration, I will indeed be bringing a date. If this places a great strain on the budget, perhaps we can contribute in some way. Thanks for being so understanding. See you soon!”
Ugh. Write back and let me know how it goes!
Graciously yours,
ANNABEL MANNERS
 
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