Q. At a recent dinner with my father's family and other guests, a lady who knows that I am a professional singer asked me to sing.
I politely refused, stating that I didn't feel right singing at a dinner where I was a guest. I explained that singing was my profession, and that I would prefer to keep work and play separate. When she asked me again, I told her that I had had a cold, and didn't want to hurt my voice. Again she asked, and I said no, because there was no piano.
She kept asking me all through dinner and for about two hours after. I finally said (rudely, I'm afraid), "Absolutely not." I had to promise to make her a tape, just to shut her up and let me enjoy the evening.
Was I wrong? No one asked my father to do accounting or my mother to type. These are their professions, and I do not see any difference in my refusing to work at a dinner.
My mother said that I should have sung because they were flattering me. What they all do not know is that at every dinner party, party, bar mitzvah, etc., that any entertainer attends as a guest, he is expected to perform.
I think that if you want an entertainer, you should hire him and not invite him and expect him to "sing for his supper." All of my entertainer friends feel the same way. Are we wrong, or do these other people have bad manners? Help! Everyone still thinks I'm horrible.
A. Miss Manners would like to A. invite your parents to dinner. Your father could do her taxes, while your mother typed her new book. You don't happen to have a cousin who's an electrician, do you? We could eat by candlelight while he rewires the chandelier.
Miss Manners would be only too happy to flatter these people while they worked. The company would vary, depending on Miss Manners' needs of the moment -- a doctor if there were anyone sick in the house, a plasterer to take care of the library ceiling, a seamstress to put up some hems, and of course several waiter friends to take care of the dinner itself -- but it would be bound to include someone useful.
So much for who was rude. You, in Miss Manners' opinion, were admirably patient. Just keep declining. If you were to give in merely because rude people are insistent, you would only be proving that such techniques worked.
You need not have offered to give this person a tape. It would have served just as well to say, "I'm so flattered you want to hear me -- I'll be sure and let you know the next time I'm performing."