Life Advice



'Open House' Not So Open After All

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend was having an open house and a catered holiday meal, and she invited my husband and me and our two teenaged children. I asked if she would mind if we brought a friend of ours who had nowhere to go, no family nearby, etc.

Her response shocked me. She essentially said, How dare I ask her to bring a stray with a sob story, and throw that in her lap. She told me she was sure our friend could probably find somewhere else to go.

I then declined her offer and told her we wouldn't be able to come after all, saying we were going to have dinner at my house so my stray wouldn't have to spend the holiday alone.

Was I wrong, or was my friend just cold-hearted???


If the invitation was issued after you found out about your stranded friend, you could have declined, saying that you had an unexpected guest with whom you did not wish to burden her. At that point, and since it was an open house, your host would have been gracious to have invited your friend along.


Gracious, Miss Manners stresses, not obliged. But clearly your host was not of that mind, and did, it seems, turn nasty. Perhaps she had received many such propositions that week -- and was tired of calling the caterer with the latest recount.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whenever I receive a phone call from a business office, the caller asks Is Robin there? I bristle and ask, Who is calling?

Their approach takes me back to when a childhood friend would call. It seems much more grown-up and polite for the caller to identify himself or herself. For example, This is Barbara from Dr. Smith's office. May I speak with Robin?

GENTLE READER: Your phone memories take Miss Manners back to her own childhood. Or at least to her middle age, when phones -- she happens to prefer the rotary style, herself -- did not have caller ID, and were shared by more than one person.


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