DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a small town, and each Thanksgiving, I invite all of the singles and people who are "at loose ends" to dinner.
I know that it is old-fashioned to expect an RSVP, so I try not to be disappointed when I don't get one. I don't want to hurt people's feelings, but I am tired of having unexpected guests arrive and having to redo the table settings and worry about whether I have enough wine, so I won't invite any of the non responders or "surprise attendees" next year.
When I fail to invite these people next year and they ask if I'm having the event, what should I say?
GENTLE READER: Old-fashioned to expect people to reply to invitations?
Miss Manners begs your pardon, she -- not scof?aws, however many they may be -- is in charge of deciding when etiquette rules are no longer useful.
Obviously, this rule is crucial to everyone who has the generosity to entertain. If those who abused your hospitality commit the further rudeness of angling for more invitations and perhaps complaining if these are not forthcoming, you should tell them, with a gracious smile, "I didn't hear from you beforehand, so I assume that it was not of great interest to you."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What are the duties of a divorced father of the groom who does not have a good relationship with the mother of the groom?
GENTLE READER: His chief duty is to pretend, for the duration of the festivities, that he does have a good relationship with the mother of the bridegroom.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a good friend whose husband is unfortunately in the last stages of a terminal disease. When I asked her what I could do to help out (I have already been bringing food, inviting them over, etc.), she replied that when she was widowed, she wanted all of her friends to commit to inviting her to dinner parties at least twice a year.
Part of me admires her for asking for what she really wants, but on the other hand I can't imagine putting people on the spot like this. In the same situation I believe I might tactfully let people know that I was socially available, but not try to obligate them to a certain number of invitations.
We are all in our sixties, and frankly I don't give the number of dinner parties I did ten years ago -- I no longer have the energy. I'm fond of this lady, and want to do the right thing. What is your take on this request from an etiquette point of view?
GENTLE READER: Etiquetteers are used to reading the subtext of what people say and do. In this case, the lady is not angling for food; she is pleading not to be isolated in widowhood.
Granted, her request was awkwardly put. But you need not address the speci?cs if you speak to the underlying meaning. If you take her hand and say, "We treasure your friendship, and you will always be welcome in our house," Miss Manners doubts that the lady will reply, "Wait a minute -- what about dinner?"