When Bill and Mary, a couple my husband knows through his business, first invited us to their home, I remained indoors while my husband wandered around outside with Bill, looking at his landscaping efforts. I returned home with my legs and ankles covered with fleabites. Last week, my husband and I went there again, and both of us were bitten by fleas.

My husband wants to develop a relationship with Bill and plans to accept further invitations, expecting me to reciprocate. I told him I will resist such efforts because of their flea problem; nor do I want to be in the position of doing all the socializing with them in my home.

I feel completely baffled. I do not want to embarrass Bill and Mary by mentioning the fleas, but I refuse to be bitten. If we continue to socialize, someone may have to say something. What to do?

Scratch?

No, you already tried that.

Nowadays, it is common for people who simply don't like something, such as smoke, to say they are allergic to it. Miss Manners doesn't know if she thoroughly approves of this escalation of claims to polite behavior. It only encourages the children to claim they are allergic to vegetables.

But in this case, she would allow the term as a polite way of avoiding saying, "You've got fleas." The statement you could make is: "I'm frightfully embarrassed about this, but we must be allergic to something in your house. Do you have pets? We came away with bitelike welts of some kind. Whatever could it be?" Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.

1987, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.