Un­wel­come sub­sti­tute guest causes dilemma for host­ess

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Advice -

I hosted a din­ner at my home for some close friends. One texted the day be­fore to let me know that she would not be able to at­tend; how­ever, her hus­band would still be able to make it. They had taken it upon them­selves to in­vite a friend of theirs named Bert in her place. I had met Bert on prior oc­ca­sions and have al­ways been ap­palled at his rude man­ners.

While I can sim­ply re­move my­self from his pres­ence at their gath­er­ings, I would not have the same op­tion at my own ta­ble. I cer­tainly would not want to sub­ject my guests to his bel­liger­ent at­ti­tude.

The fact is, he is not wel­come in my home. I was in a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, since my friends had al­ready is­sued the in­vi­ta­tion. I couldn’t use the ex­cuse that I wouldn’t have room at the ta­ble, as the wife would be ab­sent and Bert would be oc­cu­py­ing her spot. I told her that I didn’t mean to be of­fen­sive, how­ever, I needed to be able to trust that Bert would re­frain from be­ing rude to me and to my guests. She was taken aback, as she in­sists that he is “a sweet guy.”

In the end, the hus­band and Bert did not show up, and my friend is quite of­fended. I’m sure that I could have han­dled it bet­ter, but I’m at a loss as to what could have been said. When­ever any­one has tried to dis­cuss the topic with her, she com­pletely de­nies it and is very in­sulted. How could I have

Dear Miss Man­ners:

po­litely con­veyed that it is not ap­pro­pri­ate to in­vite some­one else to my home, es­pe­cially some­one that I don’t even like?

The spe­cific prob­lem you men­tioned is sim­pler to an­swer than the gen­eral prob­lem you pro­pose. Rather than ex­act a pledge for Bert’s be­hav­ior, you could have apol­o­gized but ex­plained that Bert is not among the guests you in­vite to your home.

This cre­ates a prob­lem for the friend who vi­o­lated this rule by invit­ing him, but not for you. And while the an­swer may up­set her, Miss Man­ners notes that your less di­rect ap­proach had the same ef­fect. Less ex­treme sit­u­a­tions re­quire less di­rect an­swers, with a less guar­an­teed re­sult: “You know how Bert is an ac­quired taste, and while we should def­i­nitely get to­gether, my other guests are very sen­si­tive and will not get his sense of hu­mor.”

Gen­tle reader:

On a small-boat river cruise my hus­band and I booked in Europe, the vast ma­jor­ity of our fel­low trav­el­ers were en­joy­ing the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the lo­cal cul­tures, foods and cus­toms. But un­for­tu­nately, one of them spent most of the time set­ting pas­siveag­gres­sive traps for the crew of the boat.

This per­son would place an or­der for an ex­otic fa­vorite drink from back home, then be­rate the bar­tender when the pre­sen­ta­tion did not match all the de­tails from the home­town bar. When the bar­tender of­fered to al­ter the drink to meet ex­pec­ta­tions, the re­sponse was, “You ob­vi­ously don’t know what you’re do­ing; just take it away.” Sim­i­lar de­mean­ing com­ments were

Dear Miss Man­ners:

di­rected to the chef, the cabin at­ten­dant and the lo­cal guides.

The se­nior crew mem­bers did their best to step in to take the worst of the abuse. Fel­low trav­el­ers were em­bar­rassed by the be­hav­ior and wanted to mit­i­gate the sit­u­a­tion. At var­i­ous times, we pulled the crew mem­bers aside to of­fer our apolo­gies. We wanted to con­front the ag­gres­sive pas­sen­ger, but no one could de­vise a po­lite way to in­ter­vene. If we en­counter a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in the fu­ture, what would Miss Man­ners sug­gest?

No so­ci­ety can func­tion with­out an agreed-upon code of eti­quette, but the prob­lems of not hav­ing one be­come ap­par­ent more quickly among those thrown to­gether in close prox­im­ity for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. Who, then, en­forces the rules? Both the crew and the other pas­sen­gers acted cor­rectly, but it was not enough. Such ef­forts hav­ing failed, it was time for the cap­tain to speak with the un­ruly pas­sen­ger.

Any sen­si­ble cap­tain would be hap­pier order­ing pas­sen­gers into lifeboats and may feel hes­i­tant to in­ter­vene, re­mem­ber­ing that the charges are also pay­ing clients. But such is the bur­den of com­mand. Judg­ment must be ex­er­cised in de­ter­min­ing when such an ex­treme step be­comes nec­es­sary, but Miss Man­ners trusts the cap­tain to act be­fore a full-fledged mutiny oc­curs.

Gen­tle reader:

To send a ques­tion to the Miss Man­ners team of Ju­dith Martin, Ni­cholas Ivor Martin and Ja­cobina Martin, go to miss­man­ners .com or write them c/o Uni­ver­sal Uclick, 1130 Wal­nut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Ju­dith Martin

Miss Man­ners

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.