Q: My normally sunny, outgoing, pleasant disposition is slowly turning into one of sadness, suspicion and anger.
Five years ago, we inherited a tiny seashore cottage, which we renovated into a tiny, pleasant and comfortable vacation house. We spend every summer entertaining other couples as our guests. Since I have no job in the summer, I enjoy doing this, although it's a lot of work. The other women don't work outside the home, and we're in the "empty nest" stage of life.
Fall, winter and spring roll around, but nary a return invitation do we get. Yet when summer arrives, these people are delighted to be our house guests once again. They bring small hostess gifts and offer many compliments about our house, the meals, etc.
Two summers ago, my nice, polite husband said (after a pause in the conversation): "We all have such a good time together. Wouldn't it be nice if we saw each other in the fall, too?"
They gave no enthusiastic reply to the idea, but we thought they had gotten the message. In November I called and invited them to our (winter) home, expecting to hear, "Oh, no, you come here -- you've entertained us so often."
Wrong guess: They came and stayed until 2 a.m.
Do they owe us an invitation, or are the hostess gifts and compliments sufficient? Is there a polite way of letting them know how we feel? Is it out of style to entertain in one's home for dinner or for drinks and snacks?
We enjoy their company and want to continue our friendship, but it gets harder each year to avoid the feeling that we are being taken advantage of.
I've shed a few silent tears over this, and I fear some day I'll blurt out, "Just when are you going to entertain us?" Horribly rude, but I can feel it building inside me.
A: Yes, they do owe you invitations. Miss Manners has been preaching toleration for friends who are finding it particularly difficult to entertain at certain stages in their lives -- when they have small children or career crises or health problems -- but it does not sound as if these people qualify.
That makes them social deadbeats. But they are your social deadbeats, your chosen friends, whose visits are obviously mutually enjoyable except for this issue, so let us see if we can change them instead of dropping them.
House guests, especially frequent ones, necessarily live on intimate terms. Presumably your friendship is close enough for you to speak to them fairly openly.
Let your husband repeat his remark about getting together during the year, complete with the statement about how much you enjoy their company. Then follow it up by cheerfully inquiring, "Okay, who are going to be the fall hosts? Any volunteers? Okay, now what about winter?"
Q: I am in the process of getting engaged. What I mean by that is that all the formalities are done except picking out the ring.
The man I am engaged to is 23. His parents and immediate family are a bit more refined than me. I don't know if this is because of breeding or my age (I am 21), but some members of his family like to remind me of it occasionally in subtle ways.
My fiance and I have decided that the ring we get will cost about $1,000. John is not rich but has a good job and a bit of money in the bank. We decided on this amount after figuring the money we would need for wedding expenses, honeymoon, house, etc.
I have a bit of money in the bank and I asked John if it would be all right if I put $1,000 toward the ring, so I could get one that was a bit more elaborate. He wholeheartedly agreed, thinking, as I do, that I would probably never have the chance to buy a diamond ring again, so I might as well get one I really wanted.
Is it wrong for John to let me pay half? The reason I asked him is that I didn't want him to feel that what he bought would not be good enough -- $1,000 will buy a beautiful ring. Is he wrong for accepting my offer? Is this not done in cultured society? I don't want to show his family anymore how unsophisticated I am compared to them.
A: What is not done in polite society is to allow anyone to know how one chooses to spend one's money. Naivete is not the charge you will face if you and John do not keep this particular private arrangement to yourselves.
Since you mention sophistication, allow Miss Manners to say that the more sophisticated way to accomplish what you wish would have been to suggest that John splurge on the ring you want, and that you put more of your savings toward the house you will buy.