Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend tells me it's perfectly okay to have people over and not clue them in to who else will be there, but I personally hate when people do this. I think if you're going to be inviting a small number of people for dinner, the polite thing to do is let everyone know who else might be attending when you invite them. You never know what's going on with people, even if you think everyone is on good terms. People fight and fall out, things happen that you can't keep track of. I think my girlfriend is playing with fire when she does this, but she says it's the "way the world works."
To clarify: I understand that you're absolutely entitled to invite whomever you want to your dinner parties and I'm not suggesting you have to let other guests veto people they don't like, you just give them an opportunity to politely decline if they feel strongly about so-and-so. And I'm talking only about small gatherings where everyone has to interact with everyone else. I say it's to the host's benefit to do so, because you prevent a situation where the evening is awkward and ends early. It's not the same if you have a large house party with like 30 invitees, then people can avoid guests they don't like. Which of us is right on this subject?
— Peyton Place
Peyton Place: Your girlfriend. Utterly. Just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s the polite thing to ask or expect.
The polite thing, in this case, is to invite people to things with only the date, time and nature of the event specified, and for any guests to be gracious about accepting (or declining) that hospitality — as your host chooses to offer it. There’s no allowance for trying to a-la-carte it into something you find more palatable.
It’s also polite, when you walk into a room and spot your nemesis, to put on your grown-up face and behave civilly till the event ends of its own accord.
And it’s healthy to ask yourself exactly how many people are on your don’t-put-us-in-the-same-room list. You’re right that things happen, sometimes people do have fallings-out, and you can’t know everything. But if you know of more than one or two explosive people combinations over a lifetime, then maybe it’s time for a hard look at your role either in sowing conflict or choosing friends who do.
In fact, I’m signing you “Peyton Place.”
Hi, Carolyn: I have a trans friend, and my 4-year-old has asked me, "Is Chris a boy or a girl?" I just answered that Chris is a girl (her identified gender). At this age, is that the right thing?
Anonymous: That’s the right thing at any age. Chris is a girl.
Dear Carolyn: Is attraction something that grows over time? Can a relationship work if you are very much attracted to the individual as a person, but less attracted to them physically?
— Partly Attracted
Partly Attracted: Attraction can grow, but that doesn’t mean it will. Offer friendship and see where that goes.