M.I. ASKS…

Real Simple - - Relating -

When I host din­ner par­ties, I spend a lot of ef­fort plan­ning the menu and pre­par­ing the dishes in ad­vance. In­vari­ably, some guests will show up with ad­di­tional food items with­out ask­ing per­mis­sion be­fore­hand. I re­sent this, as I feel ob­li­gated to serve their dishes along with mine; I have to serve their store-bought cake with my home­made black­berry cob­bler. I al­ways serve plenty of food, so that is not the prob­lem. How do I, with­out step­ping on too many toes, stop this prac­tice?

This is a pos­i­tive prob­lem: You’re a great cook! You have gen­er­ous friends! But if you don’t want to plop that tub of mac­a­roni salad on the ta­ble with your home­made pasta, try clar­i­fy­ing your in­vi­ta­tion: “We’ll have plenty of food, so please don’t bring any­thing.” If you sus­pect that won’t work, chan­nel your guests’ im­pulses: “But if you’ve got a bot­tle of white wine burn­ing a hole in your fridge, that would be wel­come!” Any­one who asks di­rectly can get an as­sign­ment: “Would you be will­ing to pick up some vanilla ice cream?” Be­yond that, be grate­ful for big-hearted ges­tures. Put out the su­per­mar­ket cake and fo­cus on en­joy­ing ev­ery­one’s com­pany.

HAVE AN ETI­QUETTE QUES­TION?Sub­mit your so­cial co­nun­drums to mod­ern­man­[email protected]­al­sim­ple.com. Selected let­ters will be fea­tured on these pages ev­ery month.

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