DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend asked me to take her daughter to a school event with my children. I said yes and added, "But first you have to read her the Riot Act."
She asked what I meant. I explained that the last time she and I had eaten dinner at a restaurant together with our respective children, every time she left the table, Trixy misbehaved, throwing sesame seeds at me and my children, grabbing my daughter and initiating a wrestling match with her, and making distasteful comments about the food's looking like "spit."
She defended her daughter as "playful," saying, "I guess we just have different standards." When I said I simply wished to be sure that she would behave when I am responsible for her at the school event, she curtly said she would find someone else to take her. She is now angry with me and refuses to speak to me. Was I wrong?
GENTLE READER: Or just lucky?
If Miss Manners had a friend whose standard of behavior included hurling food, blows and insults, she would be only too grateful for the silent treatment and the knowledge that someone else will assume the job of being the child's target.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How much fun should hosts of a party have at their own event? I am not asking facetiously. Five years ago, my husband and I started the tradition of a Superbowl party. We prepare lots of food and drinks and offer prizes at the end of the evening. Our friends have told us they look forward to it all year.
However, the days leading up to the event are immensely stressful. My husband and I always end up fighting, the weekend is completely lost to cleaning and cooking, and I'm a zombie for two days afterward. I can't even remember the last time I watched the game, since I now spend the broadcast refilling dip bowls.
So the question is, do we keep doing it? My husband says the answer's easy -- if it's not fun, we can just stop. I don't think it's that simple. Our friends are generous people who frequently invite us over for Christmas and Halloween parties.
I feel we should reciprocate at least once a year -- even if we're not terribly enjoying ourselves.
GENTLE READER: Each of you has half of the answer; you just need to put the two halves together.
Miss Manners agrees with your husband that you should not be giving parties you do not enjoy. Grumpy hosts put a pall on a party, even if their guests are too focused on the screen to notice them much. Even more vehemently, she agrees with you that you need to reciprocate the hospitality you have enjoyed.
So -- what is it that you do enjoy? Having people in smaller groups for dinner or perhaps brunch? Summer picnics? Skating parties? Your choice, as long as you find ways to entertain the people who entertain you.
It is not easy to end an annual party. Of course people should not come to expect invitations -- but they do. Some may have declined other invitations in anticipation of yours.
Miss Manners suggests warning people that you will not be giving yours, but want, instead, to enjoy your friends on occasions where you will be more easily able to talk -- and to follow that up with such invitations.