A Dispirited Host
Wednesday, June 30, 2004; Page C11
Dear Miss Manners:
I have just hosted the fourth get-together with friends and work acquaintances where invitations clearly stated BYOB and no one brought any beverages.
In college and the years just after, when we wanted to have a party, someone would volunteer their house or apartment for the place and everyone would bring something to eat and something to drink. Those were the days of the "What do I bring besides chips and dips?" quandary. Occasionally, there would be a get-together where someone would provide, for example, a keg of beer, and everyone would bring something to go on the barbecue grill. There were always a few who neglected to provide for themselves, but others' generosity covered them and a good time was had by all.
More recently, I have offered both place and food for socializing. I clean the house, and I plan, purchase, prepare and present food for a number of people and their partners, parents and occasional guests. On the invitation it is clearly stated BYOB -- and yet I find myself leaving my party to make a frantic run to the closest grocery for beverages.
We are all in the same socioeconomic stratum. I have taken care of the expense and trouble of the food. Yet purchasing a liter bottle of soda or a six-pack of beer seems to be asking too much.
I have tried to let it go, but it is really beginning to bother me and I do not wish to think ill of anyone. I cannot afford to supply everything all the time and do not wish to discontinue socializing. Please advise me.
Miss Manners's advice is to face the fact that you and your peers have outgrown the BYOB party. This is a collegiate and internship form, suitable for people who have not yet mastered adult housekeeping and whose finances are so close to the edge that they cannot wait for the costs of socializing to be shared through eventual reciprocation.
True, your guests should not have accepted your invitation without accepting the terms you stated. But as you seem to have violated the social terms shared by your circle, let us call it a draw. The way to entertain them without buying drinks is to invite your guests to brunch, a picnic or tea.
Dear Miss Manners:
The impending Fourth of July holiday, and all of the patriotic delicacies included with it, happen to fall right in the middle of the restrictive phase of a diet that I am participating in.
I have been invited to a barbecue and would like to go; however, I am convinced that there will not be any food there that I am allowed to eat. Would it be rude to bring my own food that is acceptable for my diet, or should I take my chances with the food that is there?
Neither. Democracy only works when people can pursue their individual needs and desires without violating the prerogatives of others.
Miss Manners knows a simple way for you to eat your own food without usurping the hosts' function of providing food: Eat before you go.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
© 2004, Judith Martin
© 2004 The Washington Post Company