Miss Manners Takes Me to Task

My love for Judith Martin is well documented, but this week’s Miss Manners’ column is particularly well-timed. See, although we had a wonderful time at yesterday’s group playdate, I was also a little bit intimidated by the hostess’s immaculate house. I still have a long list of projects that I need to get done on our own home—and the backyard is a complete disgrace, with bagged trash and unbagged wood and concrete refuse piled up in several places. I was thinking to myself, I would love to host the next group playdate but I cannot possibly, I would be shamed.

And then Miss Manners goes and tackles this question:

Dear Miss Manners:

My husband and I were recently married. He is a PhD student, and I am finishing my master’s degree and looking for work. Due to our families’ financial situations, we decided to elope to spare them the costs of a formal wedding.

We are on an extremely tight budget and only have two dining chairs, and no money for more. I have always loved entertaining, but now I am hesitant to do so because of our lack of dining chairs.

Can you please tell me if it is acceptable to invite another couple over for dinner if they will be seated in our dining chairs, while my husband and I sit on ottomans? I don’t want to offend, but I would also love to entertain company.

Gentle Reader:

Whew. Miss Manners thought she knew where you were heading and is thrilled to find out that she was mistaken.

Every other letter she has received in which newlyweds (or oldyweds) beg off from entertaining because they are lacking some equipment asks for a free pass not to reciprocate hospitality or suggests a scheme for getting donations from prospective guests.

Yes, of course you should go ahead and entertain. No guest worth having would be the least put off by your furniture arrangements.

So, I suppose the fact that I have not yet managed to decorate the house to my highest ideals does not, in fact, buy me “a free pass not to reciprocate hospitality.” I’ll wait a week or so and then issue invitations of my own.

I do think Judith Martin would give me a gold star for one thing: I sat down and wrote a thank-you note as soon as we got home.

One Response to “Miss Manners Takes Me to Task”

  • Dom Says:

    The other factor is that in my experience people with very neat houses don’t tend to expect the same from others. Indeed, they might even enjoy their visit a bit more if your place doesn’t look too perfect.

    Tidying and “decluttering” (a word I hate) seem often to be a kind of anxiety response than anything else. Anyone with kids will know that flawlessly tidy isn’t the natural state of a house!

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