Miss Manners: Fishing for an invitation requires the right bait

June 5

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When talking to a friend, if you ask what they’re doing for the evening and they tell you they’re free, is it wrong if you invite yourself over and offer to bring something?

Someone told me I should wait to be invited to someone’s house even though that someone is a friend. Please advise if I’m wrong for inviting myself.

GENTLE READER: Yes, you must wait to be invited to someone’s home. If you are not just looking for a free meal or shelter, then invite the friend to your home or out somewhere for the evening.

Oh, all right. Miss Manners will tell you how to politely fish for an invitation as long as you promise never to ask directly:

After the friend says that he or she is free, suggest that you “do something together” and pause for a second to see if you are invited. If you are not, you must proceed with one of the other two plans.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was raised that a “bridal tea” meant come and go, mingle, eat, no gift. A “shower” indicated a gift, come and stay, play games, eat.

When did the procedure change? I am thoroughly confused over the new standard of coming to a “tea” with a gift (which is usually your wedding gift).

Am I wrong? Or are we so uncouth and untrained that anything goes and there is no polite society anymore?

GENTLE READER: It is true that there is a lot of impolite society around — people who do not think it worth having guests unless the guests arrive bearing gifts.

Thus the form of the shower is used so consistently that everyone has begun to believe that there is no other way to honor a bride or an expectant mother. This has confused even those who merely want to celebrate, driving them to ask Miss Manners how they can indicate that at the showers they are planning, no presents are expected.

So the distinction you learned is important: A shower is associated with presents, but a luncheon or a tea to honor someone should not be. It is unfortunate that you and Miss Manners are the only people who seem to remember that.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When offered a box of chocolate, does one pick up the candy and leave the brown paper behind, thus maintaining order in the box and accounting for those that are missing? Or does one remove the candy with the paper so as not to soil one’s fingers? Should gloves be removed first? How does one dispose of the paper when finished?

GENTLE READER: Chocolates are not strictly subject to accountability. They may be picked up with the paper or not as you prefer. The paper, if taken, may then be returned to the box or held until a suitable receptacle is found.

Miss Manners is inclined to be flexible with chocolates, but not with gloves. They should always be removed before eating or drinking. You would learn that the hard way if you tried to remove chocolate stains from kid gloves.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

2014, by Judith Martin

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