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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Host Needs Specific Dates for Holiday Guests

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am blessed with a lovely, medium-sized vacation home, and welcome guests throughout the year. Increasingly, relatives will mention that they will be joining us over Christmas, but don’t want to let me know their date and time of arrival or departure. They like to “leave things flexible.” A few have even called a day or two before Christmas to let me know they are on their way.

This year, I would like to insist on a time frame for their visits. Is it unreasonable to inform visitors that they need to let me know well in advance the exact dates of their Christmas visits?

GENTLE READER: As the owner of the home, you get to schedule its use. It is not acceptable for guests to show up with little or no notice.

However, your passive past behavior has indicated that it was -- and telling your guests otherwise now might be tricky. Miss Manners suggests that you make a list. Begin by pinning down your favorite or most expected relatives and work your way down from there. That way, as you start to get booked, you can honestly say, “I am afraid the house is full for the holidays, but we hope that you will let us know soon if you would like to come for strawberry season.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At midafternoon, my friend invited six people by text message to her home at 7 p.m. to play games. One of the invited replied to the group that she wanted to see a movie instead, and in a separate message, invited three of the six, plus others, to meet her for the movie.

I feel it was rude for her to double-invite the three people, as it was attempting to steal a party. I privately texted her saying that three of the persons she invited were on the other invitation. She got my implication and told me that she had decent social skills, and that double invitations happen all the time.

What could I say to the movie-lover?

GENTLE READER: “No, thank you. I already have plans. As, I thought, did you.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am single and my immediate family lives at the opposite end of the continent; thus, I sometimes spend holidays by myself.

A week before Thanksgiving, an elderly couple at church invited me to their feast. I politely declined, inwardly recoiling at the nightmarish vision of spending an evening captive to their prying questions about my salary, marital status, etc. I then felt that I had to decline all subsequent invitations, because if the couple found out (and they would), I would hear no end of their haranguing about being snubbed.

As Christmas and New Year’s are approaching, this scenario has the potential for repeating itself. Is it possible to spend time with friends whose company I do enjoy without incurring the wrath of the umbrageous?

GENTLE READER: Just make your plans early, even if those plans are to wait and see who else might invite you. As long as you decline with warm thanks, specific excuses are neither wise nor necessary.

If those plans fall through, Miss Manners promises not to tattle -- as along as you promise not to be hurt if you end up spending the holidays alone.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)