SP receives many requests for advice. These queries arrive by email, through the blog and on facebook. From friend and stranger and many many readers, they come through Twitter, text and telephone and occasionally face to face. I try to answer as many as possible in a timely fashion, but preference goes to the unique situations. And I tend to ignore the repeat offenders who ask the same thing over and over which means these individuals are not paying attention or have just stopped into our club by accident and will be surfing on to the next within minutes (I can always spot the Philistines). There is never any shortage of queries to answer, so I usually reserve a day to gather them all up to respond either in person or on facebook or in a little column here on the blog. But sometimes there is urgency and an issue will plop right in front of me like an untidy piece of poo in my path that must be dealt with subito.
Yesterday I received a call from my brother, so in spite of a rather hectic afternoon I picked up the call intending to say I was very busy and would call him later. Before I could even put a period on Hello he blurted “I have to talk to you before I shoot someone!” Well, needless to say, I listened intently to what came next. My bro hosts a regular Wednesday game night/cookout in the warmer months and invites his close circle of friends. There is one friend, whom we’ll call Bob who is an Olympic speed dater. This guy evidently runs through dates at a rate of 3 or 4 a week, each time with a different contender. Bob brings a different stranger to the cookout each week. Unannounced. Before my brother could say another word, I blurted “no”. This is unacceptable behavior, from friend or stranger.
Oh, people. Where to begin? First of all the fact that this guy thinks of his friend’s home as an open bar is disconcerting at the outset. Since when is it acceptable to parade your dates in front of your friends on a first date? This says so much, or so much of what is lacking rather, in this person’s character. He obvisously doesn’t have a high opinion of himself and his ability to be entertaining during a date. And what does this say to the date? Throwing someone into your world without any consideration as to what they might want is the height of inconsideration. A first date should take place on neutral turf, not your home field.
Now, to tackle the real deal that we are concerned with here and that is the role of a guest at a dinner party as well as the expectations and generosity of the host. See the Dinner at Eight post here. When close friends gather together it is often with the desire to catch up on each others’ lives. We are all incredibly busy these days and gatherings are fewer and farther between. We want to relax in the comfort of old friends, shared histories and memories. Hell, we even speak our own language replete with unique phrases and inside jokes. This is the glory of time shared with old friends. So the question of bringing a strange guest should never even be broached. If, and this is a big if, you feel compelled to bring a stranger you should call your host. One case that is an exception would be if you have an unexpected house guest or friend in town. Of course, ideally you would know about this situation when the invitation arrived and could deal with this at that time.
When a host opens his or her house to others, this is considered the ultimate act of hospitality and the gesture should be treated with the utmost respect. It matters not if the event is a formal dinner in a Newport mansion or a simple gathering in a bungalow. You would treat each invitation the same. Your grasp of civilized manners would be the same. The only thing different would be what you’re wearing. The goal of every guest should be the same: to exhibit such exemplary behavior that you will be invited back.
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