Q. During the current climate of hibernation and cautious socialization, it’s appropriate to prioritize your family’s well-being. But may I say something in defense of hard-working hosts as well?
After a two-year hiatus, we restarted our annual Christmas party. Asking guests to “vaccinate or hibernate” and other clear measures were taken. And of course, anyone uncomfortable should have politely declined. I still ran into the same rudeness that has befuddled me since I began hosting social gatherings years ago, so I thought I’d share a few ground rules that should be revisited.
Maybe during this downtime, we’ve forgotten the “Duties of a Good Guest”:
You’re a guest, so act like one. Be a sparkling conversationalist. Or wear a festive sweater we can discuss. Bring a fun gift or story to tell. Guests DO have an obligation to not sit silent and sullen. It’s a party, folks. If you cannot make it, immediately and politely decline the invitation. A lot of time and resources go toward planning a party and your hosts will appreciate this. SHOW UP!
Nothing stuns me more than the guests who enthusiastically respond, ask to contribute to the menu (sometimes insist), and then fail to arrive. A message may follow later that adds further insult: “I fell asleep” or “Our kids came back from college and we were catching up.”
Parties are not akin to restaurant reservations that you can cancel at the last minute when something more attractive comes along.
The pandemic has created a decline in the social skills of our young. Let’s lead by example in demonstrating how to be a good guest.
A. I appreciate your “Good Guest” tips. Now, I’d like to add to/refute some of them.
Amy’s “Duties of a Good Guest”:
Pay attention to your health. Always remember that people you come in contact with at a party might also have an elderly/compromised/unvaccinated family member in their daily lives. If you are not feeling well or have just learned that you were recently exposed to someone with an active case of COVID, regardless of your own vaccination status, give the host a call — even at the last minute — and let them know that you won’t be able to make it. Don’t proselytize or publicly challenge other guests’ health-related choices. Don’t offer me a share in your stash of online hydroxychloroquine. Wear a mask if you want to. Introduce yourself by name to people you haven’t met and ask them a question or two. Listen to their responses. Don’t bring along your dog, unless invited. Put your phone away, unless you are showing me pictures of your uninvited dog. If you are feeling sad, lonely, pensive, or not-particularly “sparkling” on the night of the party, you can sit next to me.
Q. I have two children: a daughter, 41, who is divorced, and a son, 42, who is married but has no children.
My complaint is not with them, but with so many grandmas around who quiz me about my lack of grandchildren.
I usually answer them by saying I don’t know what my adult kids’ plans are. This is followed by being inundated by pictures of their grandchildren.
I am happy for them, but just want to yell STOP.
NOT A GRANDMA IN JERSEY
A. You might offer a more definitive statement by responding, “Oh, I think that ship has sailed.”
Your real complaint seems to be the fact that you are overwhelmed by looking at pictures of other people’s grandchildren.
One way to try to stem the tide would be to say, “I’d love to see one more picture of your cutie pie, but then let’s catch up!”
Q. I’m responding to the letter from “Against Gift Lists.” This mom was completely against providing gift lists to her in-laws.
I was exactly the same as her!
This year was the first year since my childhood lists to Santa that I actually provided a gift list. It was amazing, I wrote down how I wanted silver, so my grandpa went and gave silver coins for everyone in the family.
Apparently, he’s been collecting silver for years. He showed me his collection and we talked for hours.
A. I’ve received a surprisingly large response to the idea of gift lists (who knew this would become such a hot topic?), with readers coming down fairly equally on both sides.
Your story is a real treasure. Thank you!
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.