Miss Conduct

Inviting the no-shows

When can we stop asking over people who never turn up? Plus, drinking-straw etiquette.

Lucy Truman

> How many times do you have to invite your husband’s friends to cookouts and gatherings if they never attend? We have a large group of friends, but one couple never come and don’t have a reason. I feel as if it’s a waste of my time and effort. I am always the one to organize everything, and I find it a lost cause.

Anonymous / Rockford, Illinois

Be charitable toward the No-Shows — they might have reasons for begging off that they don’t feel comfortable sharing. Given that they’ve been begging off for years, though, it would be logical to assume that those “reasons” aren’t going to change anytime soon, and drop them off your list.

I bet if you asked your husband, though, he’d tell you to keep them in the rotation. A picnic invitation doesn’t cost great labor or capital, so if that’s the mister’s feelings, it’s little enough to do to keep the peace.


But you’re always the one to organize everything. That’s not good. It’s an easy slope to slip down. Pat Partyplanner is just such a natural that Pat’s family and friends naturally defer to Pat’s judgment, and Pat keeps taking on more and more until everyone is straight-up (though innocently!) taking advantage of Pat’s time and skills, and eventually Pat can be observed seething hatefully behind the punch bowl like the Thirteenth Fairy in a Brothers Grimm story. The repellently whimsical moral of the tale is that if you are a Pat Partyplanner, you need to level up your management skills and become a Drew Delegator. As outdoor-party season arrives, I wish you good luck!

> What is the proper etiquette for straw-enabled liquid consumption in the office? I find myself at the end of the bottle/can wanting to get the last drop, but it always makes that loud sucking noise, which seems rude to my cube mates. I always say “sorry,” but wonder if I should refrain altogether?

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J.S. / Boston

Let’s talk, J.S. Lean back into this ergonomic recliner. Let the muscles in your lower back release. Here’s a mug of valerian tea. Whale sounds or rain forest? Ah, Bach. There we go. Are you relaxed?

Then look deep within and tell me what it’s like to be on that exact precipice of knowing that you’re being a minor burr under the saddle of the world, but also that if you fully embrace that knowledge, you’ll have to change your behavior in a way you don’t want to.

Because you’ve hit it, J.S. You’ve described perfectly what it’s like. I think a lot of folks are on that exact precipice about all kinds of things. We know and don’t-know at the same time. We have all the data we need to make a decision, but we pretend we still need to do more research. Because we know what the decision is going to be, and we don’t want to have to live with it.


You, J.S., are hilarious and wonderful, because you are experiencing this profoundly human variety of split consciousness, this wallopingly clever bit of self-delusion — over backwash. Your habits of mind are delightful, but your habits of soda consumption are, as you know perfectly well, disgusting. Love and laugh and drink life itself down to the lees, J.S. But leave the last bit of Red Bull be.

 Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

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