I like Miss Manners because she is straight and to the point about a lot of topics people spend a lot of time stewing about. I don’t always agree with her ultimate nugget of wisdom, but rarely can I fault her direct approach.
In her column today (scroll down to the second question/answer) she responds to a reader who wishes to decline an invitation for a home party. I applaud Miss Manners for asserting that one can feel free to say “I’m not interested,” and decline the invitation – it really is just that simple. No need to make up excuses – just decline.
However, Miss Manners (and the inquirer) errs when she assumes the hostess is only extending the invitation because she wants the friend’s business. In this case, the hostess and invitee were not close acquaintances – I say having a casual get-together at one’s home is an excellent opportunity to make an invitation to someone with whom you may not have the occasion to arrange an exclusive afternoon. There is no harm in inviting distant acquaintances to such a gathering – in fact it might be just the chance to further solidify the relationship based on shared interests. The opportunity to peruse and purchase products is only an added feature to what is otherwise a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
If Miss Manners truly believed the earlier advice she had given about not feeling obligated to purchase anything, she would have counseled today’s inquirer to evaluate the invitation based on interest in socializing with the other attendees. Based on that, the inquirer would have had no trouble enjoying her afternoon and feeling guilt-free about walking away empty-handed (or staying at home alone).
I find shopping with friends to be quite enjoyable – no matter the venue. When I go to the mall with a friend I do not feel obligated to purchase anything. Likewise, I would not feel obligated to purchase anything at a home party. The problem in both cases is I usually find several things I just can’t live without.
Miss Manners, in the future, please consider that for some, shopping and socializing go hand in hand. Continue with your advice to be upfront and honest, but please don’t assume invitations to home parties are anything other than an open door.