MISS MANNERS

Dealing with guests who don’t drink

Updated: 2013-10-08T23:46:56Z

By JUDITH MARTIN

Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When offering a drink to a guest, what is the response to the reply, “I don’t drink,” or “My religion forbids alcohol”?

Of course I would offer a soft drink as an alternative, but would it be impolite to drink alcohol myself? Should I ask if it would make them uncomfortable, or just avoid the issue and settle for water?

GENTLE READER: Avoid the issue. Drink your drink, and offer him something else.

To decline a drink, whether because it is alcoholic, sugar-laden or merely repulsive, and whether the reason is religious, medical or preference, a guest need only say, “No, thank you.”

If your guest volunteered more information in a misguided but well-meant desire to explain his behavior, he has now done so and no additional action is necessary.

If his intent was to criticize your behavior, then no good can come of further probing. A guest who expects you to put him at ease by scooping up already-served drinks from other guests is asking too much.

Guests shouldn’t switch place cards

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Twice I’ve been present when a guest came to the table and switched the place cards.

Once I was the hostess; the guest arrived before the others, walked around the table and changed the place cards, placing himself between people he liked.

The other time, I was a guest, and the man who was to be my dinner partner exchanged his card with one across the table. I was nonplussed but said nothing.

What could I have possibly said or done?

GENTLE READER: You could have told your wouldn’t-be dinner partner, “Oh, I’m so sorry; I had looked forward to sitting next to you.” And considered yourself lucky to be rid of him.

As hostess, you are not so lucky in having a guest who assumes your prerogative. In that case, you should say firmly, “I planned this for everyone’s enjoyment,” and held out your hand for his place card. Miss Manners believes in letting the guilty party feel nonplussed, not the victim.

An invitation served with a lie

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A good friend of mine lost her job several months ago. She greatly enjoys live theater but has not been going because she is conserving her finances. My husband and I are doing well financially, and I would love to buy her a ticket and take her as my guest as a nice diversion from her long days of job-hunting.

However, she is very proud and would likely insist on paying for the ticket, or for a meal, and I do not want to make her spend money she does not have.

In this case, would a “white lie” be acceptable, such as, “Howard and I had planned to see ‘Wicked’ this weekend, but he has to go out of town for a work function. Would you please join me so I don’t have to go alone?”

GENTLE READER: You had Miss Manners up until you got to the excuse, which, though well-intentioned, puts you on murky ethical grounds for no reason — not to mention opening you up to getting caught if Howard is at the window when your friend picks you up.

“Howard and I purchased tickets for ‘Wicked’ and he cannot go with me. I would love it if you would go,” is more than enough. Howard cannot go because you told him he can’t, but you needn’t mention that.

© Universal Uclick 10/9

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com, or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Deal Saver Subscribe today!

Comments

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here