San Francisco Chronicle
No plan to reciprocate after dinner invitation
Dear Miss Manners: Is it wrong to accept an invitation to someone’s house for a casual dinner if you don’t plan on reciprocating? They are nice people and I would feel bad not accepting their invitation. However, I don’t entertain very often, and there are many people I would prioritize over them when I do plan to host a dinner.
Gentle Reader: Well, be sure to let them know where they stand when you reply. Acceptance of one invitation does not strictly require reciprocation. But plenty of guests accept invitations repeatedly with no intention of responding in kind, or justify it with flimsy excuses of culinary ineptitude or lack of adequate space.
At least the thought of reciprocity crossed your mind. This does not give you an entirely free pass, however. Miss Manners suggests that if you like the couple well enough to spend an evening with them, you may go ahead and accept. Perhaps you will be surprised by how much you enjoy it and feel compelled to reciprocate. Or at least have the grace to express the intention. Dear Miss Manners: What should I do when an elderly relative says she wants to get me a birthday present and, when I thank her for her generosity, follows that up by instructing me to order myself something online and then tell her how much it cost? This relative is not homebound and does know how to use the internet.
Gentle Reader: Apologize for not having gotten to it yet, each time you are reminded.
Send questions to Miss Manners’ website: www.missmanners.com; to her email address: dearmiss firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail: Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.