DEAR MISS MANNERS: When we moved across the country, we invited a couple we knew on the West Coast to visit us as guests in our new East Coast home. They accepted our invitation then, but later asked if they could bring along their friend “Lucy” as well.
Lucy, who was selfless during their child’s illness, is very close to them, although we’ve never met her. I was preparing to reply with, ”Although we look forward to meeting Lucy, we are not able to accommodate three houseguests at this time.”
But before I could reply, the invited couple emailed their understanding that perhaps three houseguests would overwhelm us and offered to book a hotel for all three.
Our intention was to spend personal time with our old friends, and including Lucy seems like an intrusion. Even if they stay at a hotel, we would be obligated to invite Lucy along to all of our dinners and planned outings. And ferrying three guests back and forth from their hotel doesn’t diminish, but rather adds to, our hosting efforts. Asking them not to visit with their close friend, at this point, seems selfish and insensitive. Should we simply accept Lucy as the cost of seeing our dear friends? How could we have avoided this misunderstanding?
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, since your friend rescinded the request for all of you to stay together, she has not committed an actual crime of etiquette. Just one of divided loyalties.
Miss Manners is afraid that if you want to see your original friends, you are stuck with Lucy. Your only recourse is to show polite remorse for this situation by saying, “We were so looking forward to catching up with you, but of course we understand. Please let us know if it will be too much to see us and also entertain Lucy.”
This has the added benefit of alerting them that you no longer expect to clear your schedule and be on call. And if it does not work, you can always try forming a fast friendship with Lucy. She has been advertised as selfless, after all.