DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I moved to a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood. We’ve worked hard and saved for years, and it is a dream come true for us.
That being said, we know that for many in our social circle, hard work is just not enough. We recognize that we have been very lucky and privileged in so many ways that others have not.
When people visit for the first time, there’s usually a wide-eyed moment of “Wow! This is an amazing house/neighborhood!” I never know if I should just say “thank you” (though I certainly can’t take credit for the community’s beauty!) or something along the lines of “I know! Aren’t we lucky?” or “I’m glad you like it. We do, too!”
I also feel a little self-conscious, thinking that they are wondering how we can afford this, or maybe feeling jealous that we live like this when many of our friends are struggling.
A lot of old neighbors, friends and co-workers are asking to “come by and see the new place,” but I’m a little afraid to invite them because I don’t know how to behave. (So far, we’ve just hosted a few close friends and relatives.) How do I entertain without feeling like I’m showing off?
GENTLE READER: If you have good reason to believe that certain people begrudge you your pleasure in your new house, don’t invite them.
But Miss Manners hopes that you do not assume this to be the natural general reaction. Many people do not regard good fortune as a zero-sum game, and actually rejoice in the happiness of others. Really.
However, it is true that you could bring on a bad reaction by behaving as if you were a docent showing off a palace. The important thing is to treat your visitors as guests, not as tourists.
This means first inviting them to sit down and offering some refreshment. Your responses to their admiration of the house and neighborhood are fine, but you should not let this be the only topic of conversation. Tourists come specifically to see and learn about the attraction; guests should know that you also have an interest in them (although this is not the time to talk about their housing).
Eventually, they will ask to see the rest of the house, and you can oblige gracefully. It would be especially charming to ask their advice about any adjustments you contemplate making, which you are not obliged to follow.