Miss Manners: Some dinner party guests were only invited for dessert

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Dear Miss Manners: A female companion of mine was invited to a longtime friend’s home and asked me to accompany her. The invitation was for “dessert only,” as many of the other guests were also invited for dinner a couple of hours earlier.

The dinner crepes were very tasty, we were told by the dinner guests.

What are the points of etiquette in all of this? I seek your response as a point of information and with no ill feelings — I later married the hostess.

Well, you showed her, didn’t you?

While the depth of your forgiveness is remarkable, Miss Manners is afraid that your wife and former hostess did, in fact, breach etiquette. You may invite people for dinner and you may invite people for dessert, but you may not do so for different people within the same evening. It makes it all too clear which of the guests is preferred.

Except, of course, in your case. So clearly your wife has learned her lesson — and you have finally gotten to taste the dinner crepes.

Dear Miss Manners: A friend I have known for half a century is dreading her upcoming 70th birthday. For the record, she also moaned about her 50th and 60th birthdays.

I happen to think milestone birthdays are worthy of celebration. I recently sent an email letting her know a gift and card, both thoughtfully selected by me, would be arriving shortly.

Her reply: “So sweet of you to do so, but I refuse to acknowledge this birthday!”

I had also planned to order flowers for her, but I am now rethinking this given her passive-aggressive response to my earlier message. Am I being churlish?

Perhaps. But your friend is not being passive-aggressive. She has made it clear — for the past 20 years, no less — that she does not like to celebrate her birthday.

Your insistence on it is not thoughtful, as it is not wanted. If you would like to celebrate your friend, Miss Manners suggests that you simply invite her to a meal or event around the time of her birthday without saying why. You will both know the reason, but the friendship will be all the better for silently respecting her real birthday wishes.

Dear Miss Manners: A babysitter we used when our children were small, whom we still occasionally see socially, likes to tell people how horrible my children were when she babysat. She never said a word to me at the time.

My children are now in their late 30s. She has brought this up to me in social situations, and not only is it embarrassing, but I don’t believe it is true. I think she says this to get a laugh at my family’s expense.

What would be an appropriate response when she launches into comments about my kids? I can only think of rude comebacks, which won’t help the situation.

“Oh, dear, they only ever spoke highly of you. If I had known how awful the children were to you at the time, I would never have continued to subject you to them.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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