DEAR MISS MANNERS: Let's say that you're throwing an informal social gathering You put together the guest list and invite around 20 people.
Somehow, by mistake, an additional person gets an invitation. The person is a casual acquaintance of yours. You neither like nor dislike him, it's just "someone you know." He has not made any unwarranted assumptions -- he did get an invitation, and has contacted you back and said, "Great, sounds like fun, I'll be there."
What would you do? Would you (a) call him and civilly cancel the invitation; (b) drop hints that you didn't really want him there (don't return his phone calls, etc.) and hope he gets the idea; (c) put another chair by the pool and buy one extra person's worth of food, drinks, etc.; or (d) some other option (if so, what)?
If you chose (c), how would you behave toward him at the social gathering? Any differently than toward your other guests? If so, how?
My friend who recently found herself in that situation, went for choice (b) and admitted this to me. (He did get the hint and didn't attend.) I've been trying to explain to her why the correct answers are (c) and "treat him like any other guest -- be friendly, thank him for coming, make him feel welcome, etc." -- and why it was rather generous of him to laugh the whole thing off and not even show a little mild annoyance. (He declined another invitation for the same day shortly after receiving her invitation.)
But so far, I've been unable to convince her -- maybe you can do better?
GENTLE READER: With someone who sees nothing wrong in insulting her own guest -- and for what? For accepting an invitation that she issued because she made a mistake. Miss Manners would hardly know where to begin.
Rather, she would caution you about calling such a person a friend. One mistake -- on your friend's part -- and you may be in trouble.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have moved into a new house, and the real estate agent we dealt with went far above and beyond what one has come to expect. As a result, I decided to invite the young lady over for dinner.
She arrived promptly at 6:30 p.m. and we had an enjoyable dinner together. After the meal, we went back into the living room for some further conversation.
I am not usually one who runs out of things to say, but this time even I was seriously challenged as the hours passed. She did not leave until 12:40 a.m.! It became embarrassing, as there were gaps in the conversation whilst we all just sat and looked at one another, all the while trying to stifle our yawns.
What should I have said to have brought the evening to an end at a much more civilized time? I certainly did not want to hurt her feelings.
GENTLE READER: Nor did she want to hurt yours by appearing to leave too soon. Too bad her watch had stopped.
That malfunction is a problem that Miss Manners believes a good hostess should ignore. However, when you can stand it no longer, you may rise to your feet and say warmly, "What a pleasure it was to have you here. Thank you so much for coming." If you keep standing, she will get up. Presuming that she hasn't already dozed off.