Miss Manners: They never confirmed that they were still coming to dinner

Suspension

Dear Miss Manners,: My husband says I screwed up this situation badly: We met a couple at church and felt like we’d get to know them better. On a Sunday after service I asked if they would be interested in joining us for dinner that afternoon and that we were eating at 4pm and the husband had walked away to talk to someone else and the wife thanked me for the invitation and said she would talk to her husband and come back to me.

When we got home, I repeated the invitation via text message. There was no response. As it happened, my dinner was ready to eat a little earlier than I thought it would be, so my family and I went ahead and sat down to eat as I received no response.

Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang at 4pm and a couple – a plate of biscuits in hand – cheerfully said they were there for dinner.

I stammered with something poignant, “I didn’t know you were coming, because I never heard from you.” They agreed they should have told me, gave me a cookie platter (which was delicious) and left with the promise of another invite in the near future.

This is the point on which we disagree. We had some food still available to eat and my husband said I should have invited them for leftovers. I feel that since I never got a definitive answer to my call, I was right not to plan their service and feel it was rude to say “Okay, we ate, but welcome to what we have behind.”

people make mistakesThis is the reason for the invention of the apology. Apologies also ease the situation even when you haven’t done anything wrong – dinner early, for example, because the food was hot and you weren’t expecting company.

It comes as a surprise to Miss Manners that when both families want to be friends, no one seems to have thought of that. Could you apologize for eating already? Your guests could have apologized for not telling you they were coming (agreeing that they should tell you is not the same thing).

As for serving leftovers, it wasn’t required, but its very casual character would have shown your desire to count it among your close friends. As well as another invitation.

Dear Miss Manners,: When I meet my friends at a restaurant and I’m the first to arrive, is it nice to wait outside on the sidewalk or come in and close the table?

etiquette no You want your friends to keep waiting, but they don’t care how you make it happen.

In the days before the cell phone, this meant that if you chose to sit down, you either alerted the staff or chose a place where you could see and be seen. These days, it can be as simple as a text message alerting your friends that you’re sitting in the back, next to the air conditioner vent.

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

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