DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are my obligations to people knocking on my door? Most are solicitors or religious proselytizers, neither of whom I wish to speak to.
The only way to see who is there is by looking out the door's window. If the person sees me, do I then have to answer the door? I don't like opening the door to strangers. I can see the street, so I know if a police car or fire truck is out there.
If I do open the door, can I cut off their scripted speeches and say I'm not interested? Some are quite aggressive, even hostile. How polite must I be? Cutting someone off seems rude, but then, so does their imposition on me.
Neighbors sometimes knock also, and I don't always answer. How does one tell neighbors not to stop by unannounced without offending them, especially when they are stopping by with a small gift?
I may have let the neighbor situation go on too long to correct it now. Am I obligated to tell anyone that sometimes I don't answer the door? Must I always answer the door if I want to remain a member of (somewhat) polite society?
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners says yes, it would mean that you would be rude in refusing to open the door when you saw a masked gunman. If she says no, it would mean that you would be polite in peering clearly at your neighbors and then walking away, leaving them standing on your doorstep holding flowers from their gardens or pies from their ovens.
Couldn't she get out of this by making you install side curtains and a peephole?
You don't have to answer the door at all if the caller does not see you and can therefore assume that you are either not home or occupied with something that prevents you from responding. You still don't have to answer the door for strangers, whether they are holding guns or Bibles or lottery winnings, and if they catch you looking or opening, you can cut them off by shaking your head and saying thank you.
But you do have to answer the door to callers you know who see you recognizing them. The saving grace is that you do not have to let them in. You can go into a flurry of gratitude and regret that you are frightfully busy just now and would love to see them at another time.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I share an apartment with one other woman who is good friends with a married couple whom I've also known socially for a long time, but am not as close to. We've entertained them informally once or twice, yet all their social invitations extended to her are extended only to her and do not include me.
Yes, they have a right to socialize on their own, and no, it's not analogous to what the situation would be if my housemate and I were related to one another instead of mere housemates. Still, it is hurtful, though I don't think they're aware of it. My housemate does not know I feel this way.
GENTLE READER: Do her friends?
Miss Manners agrees that these people might be remiss in not including you, but as there is too much sulking going on in the world, she would like you to consider another possibility. Maybe they don't know you are being a hostess, too. Maybe they think you're there when your friend invites them because of the location, rather than the company.
The way to indicate that you do want to be friends is to say how much you like them, rather than how left out you feel. It has a lot more charm.