DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last week my husband and I were invited to a dinner party by a couple we met ?recently and do not know very well. I offered to bring an ?appetizer and she graciously accepted my offer. Weeks before her dinner, ?she asked me several times if I was still bringing ?the appetizer, and I indicated that I was. I thought that was odd that ?she kept asking me -- but let it go.
Anyway we showed up that early evening with the appetizer and a good bottle of wine. Their home was very beautiful and elegant and the ?dining room was set for a sit down dinner ... again, elegantly set.
We all started showing up and I noticed there were no other appetizers out but mine. ?There were 14 people meandering around, and the host and hostess were ?spending more of their time showing off the house than tending to their guests.
We finally were offered a glass of wine -- and my meager appetizer tray was eventually gone. Dinner was finally under way after an hour and ?some of us ladies assisted. The dinner was meager and disappointing. ?I guess I did not enjoy the evening; in a nutshell, it was a strained ?evening.
What struck me was these people are not without financially -- and did not seem to go out of their way to entertain their guests -- it appeared to ?be more emphasis on presentation. It was very disappointing.
Do you think she felt my appetizer was enough to serve her guests? I ?felt a bit put ?off by the entire thing and still do. What do you think, Miss Manners?
GENTLE READER: That it is high time for guests and hosts alike to stop thinking of every invitation as a cooperative venture. More often than not, what is intended as a gesture of good will results, as this did, in hurt feelings and perhaps badly fed guests.
Miss Manners is not defending your hosts who, you report, neglected their guests. When you were invited to dinner, you need only have responded with your thanks. It is not necessary, as many people now assume, to assume that you will also be catering. Nor is it helpful to bring one bottle of wine, as more than one would be needed for a dinner party.
But once your offer was made and accepted, you needed to know how many people you had volunteered to feed. In a genuinely cooperative meal, when groups of friends or club members regularly get together with each contributing part of the food, this is an obviously necessary piece of information. If you weren't told, you need to ask.
But in this case, you must have simply assumed that there would be either fewer guests or more appetizers. And the hostess assumed that the appetizer course was taken care of and she need think no more about it. (Even in relating it, you speak of your offering "an" appetizer, and her checking that you were bringing "the" appetizer.) Possibly she farmed out the other courses just as carelessly, which explains why the meal was meager.
Please help Miss Manners to put a stop to this by going back to the system by which the work and expense were indeed shared -- but by the simple method of taking turns entertaining.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If a couple live together but are not engaged do both have to be invited to a family bar mitzvah?
GENTLE READER: Yes, and it doesn't matter if you approve of the person or the arrangement. Sorry.