Dear Miss Manners: My husband says I mangled this situation badly: We met a couple at church and felt we would like to get to know them better. One Sunday after services, I asked whether they would care to join us for dinner that afternoon and that we eat at 4 p.m. The husband had stepped away to speak with someone else, and the wife thanked me for the invitation and said she would talk with her husband and get back to me.
When we got home, I reiterated the invitation via text. There was no reply. As it happened, my dinner was ready to eat a little earlier than I thought it would be, so my family and I went ahead and sat down to eat since I had not heard back.
Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang at 4 p.m. and there was the couple — plate of cookies in hand — cheerfully stating they were there for dinner.
I stammered out something to the effect of, “I didn't know you were coming, since I never heard from you.” They agreed they should have let me know, gave me the plate of cookies (which were delicious) and left with the promise of another invitation in the near future.
That is the point on which we disagree. We had some food still available to eat, and my husband said I should have still invited them in to partake of the leftovers. I feel that since I never got a definite answer to my invitation, I was correct in not planning to serve them and I feel it would have been rude to say “Well, we’ve eaten, but you’re welcome to what we have left over.”
People make mistakes, which is why the apology was invented. Apologies also ease the situation even when you have not done anything wrong — eating your dinner early, for example, because the food was hot and you were not expecting company.
It surprises Miss Manners that, when both families want to be friends, no one appears to have thought of this. You could have apologized for having already eaten. Your guests could have apologized for not telling you they were coming (agreeing they should have told you is not the same thing).
As to serving leftovers, it was not required, but its very informality would have demonstrated your desire to count them among your intimate friends. As would another invitation.
Dear Miss Manners: When I’m meeting friends at a restaurant and I am the first to arrive, is it more polite to wait outside on the sidewalk or go in and snag the table?
Etiquette does not want your friends to be kept waiting, but is indifferent as to how this is accomplished.
In pre-cellular-telephone days this meant that, if you did choose to be seated, you either alerted the staff or chose a spot where you could see and be seen. These days, it may be as simple as a text alerting your friends that you are seated in the back, next to the air conditioning vent.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin