DEAR MISS MANNERS: My children occasionally have friends to our home to play, and one of them is exceptionally rude to adults.
When our children behave rudely, we respond with, “Could you make that a polite request, please?” or “That was unacceptable. Please try again.” But what do we say to the visiting child who does not belong to us?
My husband doesn’t want the child in our home again. I would like to find an acceptable way to handle the situation as the adult in charge. What would you do?
GENTLE READER: If she were the adult in charge of everything, Miss Manners would give misbehaving children The Look and they would instantly shape up. But she recognizes that for anyone else, it is tricky to discipline someone else’s child (and never acceptable in front of the parent).
However, your house, your rules. You could give this child’s upbringing the benefit of the doubt by saying, “I’m sure that your parents wouldn’t allow you to talk to them that way.” But if the child assures you that indeed they would, “Well, we don’t allow Jackson to, so perhaps you can help us in setting a good example.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who leaves her voicemail box full so you cannot leave messages. I mentioned this to her in a casual way, and her response was, “If it’s important, I figure they’ll call back.”
I think what she’s saying is her time is more valuable than others. I find this really annoying. What can I say without totally alienating her?
GENTLE READER: “Call me when you have a moment.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For more than 30 years, I have hosted a holiday party at my home and tried my best to make it as sophisticated and gracious as I know how. We start at the civilized hour of 8 p.m., I stand at the door in formal attire to greet my guests, and I provide a full-service bar and expansive holiday buffet dinner. My guest list includes acquaintances from across the state, as well as many political figures.
Although I have tried to provide a memorable holiday experience, I am sorry to say that only one or two of my closer neighbors have reciprocated with as much as a cup of coffee. Would I be uncouth to trim my guest list to those with whom I share a closer relationship?
GENTLE READER: The unfortunate thing about annual holiday parties is that many guests come to think of them as a sort of public entertainment. It is better than going down to see the New Year’s ball drop, they figure, because it comes with free drinks.
Thus they believe that the usual guest obligations — answering promptly, showing up and reciprocating — do not apply. Alas, some people behave this way all the time.
Why should you keep entertaining these people? If they were really eager to see you, you would have heard from them during the year. Miss Manners advises such mistreated hosts to skip a year now and then. Or switch holidays. That is the easy way to throw people off. Should anyone be so rude as to complain about not being invited, you can say, “Oh, we’re not doing our regular party this year.”