Over the holidays my wife and I will be hosting some parties. Slate had an article about the “Irish goodbye” in which guests don’t announce their departure, but just slip out the door. I like to do something similar as host. Some guests, particularly close friends, like to stay forever at my house because they are having a grand time. I am usually tired after having set up, cleaned, cooked, etc. They are great friends and I completely trust them in my home while I am asleep. Rather than kick these friends out “early,” around midnight I go to sleep and let them stay as long as they like. I have received harsh criticism from my wife and these friends that this is very rude. Am I a bad host?
An evening of providing food, drink, and good cheer to friends does not then require that you then be held hostage. Like a variation on Cinderella, at your house when the clock strikes 12, your guests turn into freeloaders. Be sure when you extend your party invitations they have a clear start and end time. Of course, people will come late and stay late, but if your party is scheduled to run from 7 to 10 p.m, , anyone should understand that at midnight the hosts are going to be either washing out the wine glasses or in their pajamas. Emily Post's Etiquette gives an escalating list of approved actions designed to get the barnacle guest out the door. First, close down the bar, then start cleaning up, and if no one gets the hint, stop hinting and say you’ve got to call it a night. This venerable etiquette manual says being a host does not require being a sap and authorizes handing the guests their coats, and even approves of your own nuclear option: heading off to bed.
My husband and I are both young professionals with no children who are in the midst of big financial projects. We have six beautiful nieces and nephews we are wild about. However, it is getting quite crazy shopping for them, their parents, and other close family members. (I’ll note that the kids are very well taken care of.) Last year we spent almost $1,000. I recommended that we do a gift drawing, but I have been met with opposition. There are some people in my family who can be quite sensitive. How do we tell them, “We love you but aren’t getting you gifts?”
—Two Against an Army
Now’s the time for your counterinsurgency. Let all the adults know that that this year you don’t want any presents from them because you are only buying gifts for the kids. Let’s hope when it’s time to unwrap everything, none of the adults start flinging mistletoe at you because they didn’t get a big enough haul. Once you make this year’s announcement, it will become easier to maintain as a new tradition. As for the kids, set a budget and keep to it. For about $25 each, or less, you can get them beautiful, hardcover editions of classic books, like Alice in Wonderland or Treaure Island—that’s a total outlay of $150. Even kids who have everything will still get lost in these amazing stories. I received Alice in Wonderland from a beloved aunt when I was a girl, and all through my own adventures, my copy of Alice has come along.
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