Dear Miss Manners:
My husband and I have always enjoyed entertaining, and I am not willing to give up on parties, but I want to protect us and particularly my husband from insults.
My husband has begun his own business and is working very long hours to build it up. I am winding down my career, and am very happy to take on the chief responsibility for our continued parties and dinners, so he can get some rest.
But apparently our new arrangement is not acceptable. One woman, a very longtime friend, pointed out at two recent dinner parties that my husband hadn't helped to put on the dinner. Her tone was very hostile. We did not invite her to our last party and did not accept a recent invitation from her, just saying we had other plans. (I have thought of calling her personally, but am not sure how that would go.) Another friend has commented, but fortunately only to me and not at the dinner table.
I don't want to keep limiting my invitation list, and would also like to avoid having to explain or apologize for our new shift. My husband is very sensitive about "being insulted in his own house." Is there anything you can suggest?
Miss Manners is old enough to remember when this sort of insult was commonplace -- with one small difference. It was a husband who did cook, clean or otherwise participate in running the household at whom scorn and scolding were then directed.
Doing so was rude then, and it is rude now. To chastise one's hosts is unspeakable, and to interfere in how wife and husband choose to run their household and their lives makes it even less speakable, as it were.
While such impertinence is ample reason for striking someone from your guest list, busybodiness is rampant, and Miss Manners doesn't want to kill your social life. The alternate choice is to defend him, but not by saying, "Oh, I don't mind," which would only make it worse. Say, "He and I divide our work as we see fit. I'm sorry it displeases you, but that is the way we do things."
Anyone who fails to fall into an embarrassed silence, but rather continues by telling you how you should do things, really must be dropped.
Dear Miss Manners:
My husband and I stopped at a restaurant where the hostess asked for a name for our party.
Instead of writing the name I told her, she wrote an obscenity that sounds similar to my husband's last name. There were several other restaurants nearby, so my husband and I chose to leave.
Would it have been more proper to tell the hostess, "Excuse me, but that obscenity you wrote is not the name of our party," to point at the obscenity and ask her to cross it off her list, or to stick around and snicker with the rest of the guests when the name was announced?
They wouldn't just snicker -- they would whip around to see who it was who had such a name. And what would you do then? Take a bow?
Of course you should have corrected the hostess. Miss Manners requires people to give -- or to pretend to give -- others the benefit of the doubt when there is a possibility of an honest mistake. But as she has her doubts about this one, she would have allowed you to say it in an icy tone.
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.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin