Etiquette Is Not About Making Boorish People Comfortable

by admin on January 18, 2011

Last year, I threw my BF a 30th birthday party at our shared apartment. Because his birthday is in late spring, we decided to have an outdoor, late-afternoon barbeque that we expected to last into the evening, but not late enough to disturb our neighbors. Our apartment is in a house with three other apartments. The two upper floors each have their own private deck, and seemingly never come into the house’s shared backyard. My BF and I live on one side of the first floor, the other half of which has another tenant. Both our apartments open to the backyard, but we generally keep to the side of the yard our respective apartments are on (the yard is fairly large, and situated in a way that it divides easily and obviously).

On the day of the party, my BF was setting up in the backyard (setting up tables and the like). Our first-floor neighbor, who we never socialized with, came outside and started chatting with my BF. I was inside cleaning the bathroom, which has a window out to the backyard, so I heard the entire exchange. She asked what he was doing (it was obvious he was setting up for a party, so it was a pretty clear play for an invite). BF told her we were having a few people over to celebrate his birthday, and by sheer coincidence, she knew someone who was going to be there. So he said, “You can stop by for a drink if you want to say hi to (person you know).” My BF is a sweetheart, and always doing things like this, inviting people along to things he doesn’t actually want them to be there for, in the hopes that they’ll say no. (Lesson learned after this.) He just doesn’t want people to feel excluded, and he told me later he thought she wouldn’t want to come to a party where she wouldn’t really know anyone. Next door neighbor, “Laura,” however said she’d LOVE to stop by, as she’s moving out in a couple days and has nothing in her house. Warning sign number one.

So as soon as guests start to arrive (there were maybe 20 people invited, not a huge party, but a fun group), Laura immediately comes out and starts introducing herself (the person she knows – and not well, they just went to the same high school – was not there yet). I’m busy in hostess mode, so I’m getting the food for dinner ready, my homemade sangria is outside, and so are the appetizers. Once all the guests arrive and are having a good time, we fire up the grill, and I bring out the side dishes I made to go with the burgers, brats and hotdogs. As I’m setting up the food, Laura, who you will remember was invited to “stop by for a drink,” approaches me, plate in hand, and asks if she can stay for dinner, because she has no food in her house because she’s moving. At this point, I thought it would be beyond rude to say “No, it’s time for you to go home” (it is her backyard, too) so I just said it was fine. We did have plenty of food, and I didn’t want to create a scene in the middle of the party. Later, she repeatedly hinted that she wanted leftovers to eat the next day. I ignored the hints the first few times, and then eventually said that we had plans for any leftover food.

Well things just got worse from there. Laura got incredibly drunk and proceeded to hit on every single male guest. Literally, every male guest, not just the single ones. We got reports of her inappropriate behavior from our male guests after the party. I wish I had known at the time, but the guys were being nice. After dinner, I’m finally able to sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Laura sits down next to me (we’ve got a bunch of chairs grouped together, so there are several people around us) and proceeds to talk about an argument she heard my boyfriend and I having through the wall that separates the apartments. She said she liked to pull up a chair to listen to us. Then she began repeating what she had heard (out of context and without a thought for the fact that she was repeating a private conversation of which she was not a part, to a party full of people). BF’s dad had been going through a terrible health experience, which had caused some family drama that trickled down to us and had caused some friction (and one tough argument in particular). We had gotten past it, but it was painful to hear it, and to know other people were hearing about it, too. And I Could. Not. Get. Her. To. Change. The. Subject. Finally, I just got up and walked away. I actually had to go into the house to collect myself for a minute, so I didn’t completely lose it on this girl. I came out again, and was able to enjoy myself for awhile by avoiding Laura like the plague.

At this point the party is winding down; more than half the people who came had already left. A close friend of mine (who heard Laura’s inappropriate conversation) offered to help me clean up, so the rest of the people would take the hint that it was time to make their way home. So my friend and I (along with another guest, who was just being nice) are picking up trash and dishes, getting leftover food put away, and generally tidying up. Most people took the hint, and made their goodbyes. Except Laura, and this guy, “Mark,” who was her prey of the moment. Mark came with another couple, so there was this awkward moment when his ride asked him if he was going to leave, and Mark says, no, he’s going to stay. So the last couple, Mark’s ride, come inside with my BF and I and make their goodbyes. But Laura and Mark are still sitting outside our back door. BF and I clean the kitchen (the bathroom is right by the back door, and we had everything outside, so no one really came in, and the inside needed little cleaning) and relax briefly before deciding to go to bed. I go into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and I can hear Laura and Mark outside. It’s now almost midnight and the last guests left nearly an hour ago. I turned off the backyard light and went to bed. Laura moved out two days later and we never saw her again.   0111-11

To assuage your discomfort at having such a miserable unexpected guest, consider this to have been a learning experience which you will never repeat again.  For future reference,  resist the urge to…

1.  Tell strangers, or anyone else for that matter, what the guest list is.  It’s none of their business, even invited guests should not be asking who will be in attendance and one certainly should not be volunteering that information.  When asked, simply reply, “Friends and family”, or, “People.”

2. Believe that people should be protected from the feelings that accompany the realization of being excluded.  Sorry, but life is not fair and not everyone gets to be invited to every party or function or event they happen to hear about.  This is an area which clearly demonstrates precisely why etiquette is NOT about making people feel gooey, warm, fuzzy and good about themselves as many people seem to think etiquette should be.   People who fish for invitations and have a sense of entitlement that they are somehow owed an invitation should be given the character building opportunity to deal with their entitled expectations being readjusted.    The appropriate response to an invitation fishing expedition is either ignore it totally or reply with, “I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate that request.  It is a private party.”

3.  To give even a minute of air time to a snoop.  The moment Laura admitted to listening in to your arguments through the apartment walls, the writing was on the wall that nothing good would possibly come of this revelation and the immediate reaction should have been to turn your back to her in her mid- sentence and begin a totally different conversation with the person next to you.  It is perfectly fine to completely shun a rude boor and if her little love cup gets chipped, all the better for her to experience that so that she learns to never say that again.   If Laura still didn’t get the hint, removing yourself as you did was very appropriate.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Chloe January 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

Wow, I don’t know if I could have made it as far as the OP with being polite. I think I would have just lost it the minute she told me she enjoys pulling a chair up to the wall and listening to arguments. Hopefully your boyfriend learned a lesson, in case you get someone fishing for an invite in the future !

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Harley Granny January 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

I don’t have a problem so much with anything this neighbor did but the gossip and the not leaving.
I’m not saying hitting on the men was wrong but that was up to them to handle.

Technically she was invited by the BF and once there she should not have felt she had to ask to eat…in my house once you’re a guest everyone is treated the same.

As to the gossip I would have just gotten up and walked away…and if these others were true wonderful friends they would have followed you…..OR….a very calm but deadly….”Wow..I can’t believe you would want to repeat something like that…here have some beandip.”

As to her not leaving…you did the right thing…turn off the lights and go to bed. There’s only so much you can do in that situation.

Look on the bright side…you never have to worry about her again…..you want to borrow some of my in-laws???

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Shayna January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

While I agree with Miss Jeanne’s point #1, in this case, it wouldn’t have made any difference if the OP’s BF hadn’t divulged the guest list. “Laura” probably would have stuck her nose out the back door anyway (given that she’s nosey, it would seem, I wouldn’t put it past her) and once she saw that she knew someone there, she probably would have crashed the party.

What an awful woman, this Laura. “Boor” is a great word to describe her actions. I don’t know that I would have held my tongue if she’d pulled that stunt on me.

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Louise January 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

Well, at least you stood up to her about the leftovers….

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Just Laura (But not THAT Laura!) January 18, 2011 at 10:21 am

I’m with Chloe. I don’t know that I could have restrained myself once the “Airing of Grievances” started.
I’m a lot tougher than my fiance, who is usually a pushover. I will tell a person who has stayed hours too long, “Hey, are you going to start paying rent?” However, one time a woman was at our house during a party and began acting very inappropriately (think grabbing the men…), my fiance unceremoniously kicked her out. Thank goodness I didn’t know about this until after she left, and I can’t imagine what on earth gave her the idea that her behavior was acceptable.

I think I would have allowed Neighbor Laura to stop by; I mean, she’s a neighbor, and this is using the common backyard. Who’s to say she didn’t want to use the backyard that day? It’s her’s too. However, as soon as she began making a nuisance of herself, my patience would have worn through.

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Xtina January 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

OK–I could have dealt and added Laura as a guest since the boyfriend made the mistake of caving to her insistence on inviting herself to the party (as Harley Granny stated, she was technically a guest once OP’s boyfriend invited her)–but let that be a lesson learned the hard way to the boyfriend not to be such a pushover in the future.

That would have been IT once she started behaving badly and telling me she’d been eavesdropping on me, and sharing that private information with guests–that is grounds for dismissal in my book. I would have told her that I did not care to have that information divulged among my guests, let’s talk about something else or you can leave now, have a nice night and enjoy living in your new place.

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Ashley January 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

It’s stories like this that make me extremely thankful I have neighbors who understand what is appropriate at gatherings like this. That’s all I really have to say on the subject. I’m too flabbergasted by the fact that there are people who actually act like that at parties to say anything else.

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Elizabeth January 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

@Just Laura- Men grabbing, you say? Oh, I know that one. A dear friend of my husband and I had a Christmas party one year. This was long before hubby and I were even engaged. We had moved to Seattle that March and She moved out there in September. Her roommate (We shall call her Crazy) was a little on the off side. Back to the Christmas party. This was all of our first Christmas out there and none of the 3 of us had many friends yet. Our friend, K, begged us to please make it because the only other friend she’d have there was her new boyfriend. So we arrive to the party late because we both had late shifts to work. When we get there, Crazy greets us quite drunkenly and then (and I did not find this out until later) grabs my man’s man when hugging him. Most of the party was K, her boyfriend, my man, and I in the kitchen while Crazy was bouncing between every other man at the party. We wanted to leave, but we didn’t want to leave K with such a mess to deal with. Crazy tried to go after K’s man, and he brushed her off quite well. Then she tried to sit in my now hubby’s lap. I put my arm in her way and simply said, “Sorry, that is mine.” It was quite funny, because her response was simply, “Like I’d want him.” Then she sits in a third guys lap and they get a little inappropriate. At this point things are winding down and we’d had enough. We tell K we are leaving and ask if she’ll be ok, and her boyfriend lets us know he is going to stay as long as he needs to. I think he may have mentioned having her stay with him to get away from the whole thing for the night.

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Rug Pilot January 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Typical alcholic behavior. Even without any kind of invitation she would have crashed the party just because it was there.

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Enna January 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Laura’s behaviour was bad – I think making the other guests espeically the male guests. As for her eating some of the food – surely if you invite someone even “for a drink” or to “stop by to say hi” and they end up staying it’s no big deal for her to eat some of the food? Asking for leftovers was cheeky and the way the OP handled it was excellent. Maybe if Laura did something like bring a bottle or help clear up then the OP might have been more likely to give her some leftover food? Not that it should be expected!

I went to a birthday party recently of my parents’ firend’s child and we arrived early so we helped setting stuff up. Dad even helped by drying plates after most people had eaten. The Mother of the child did appricate the help we had given and when we left she offered us some leftover food – my Mum didn’t expect it and politely turned down the offer as she didn’t really need any extra food.

I do disagree with Admin on certain aspects. Saying “firends and family” is one thing but not “people” as that could be seen as rude. Not forgetting that this is a communal garden and even if Laura was moving out she could’ve put in a complaint about noisey argurements/party if she felt she had been offended, wronged or badly treated. It is important to be neighbourly to neighbours. If you know the neighbours it is one thing to invite them along – the only time it is acceptable to allow a comlete stranger-neighbour to a party is 1) they know one of the guests and they don’t act suspiously and 2) if they have locked themsleves out.

As for snooping that was bad. It is one thing after the argurment has taken place to bashfully admit you overhead an argurement. I live in number “3” in my street and the people in number “7” have a very strained relationship – the couple at numper “5” have told us about the argurements they have overheard purely because my Mum had to intetvene when the man from “7” started to phyisically shake his g.f on the green outside – Mum told the woman to bring come into the house and bring the daugther in too for refuge.

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Enna January 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm

That last sentance is meant to be “Mum told the woman to come into our house with her daugther for refuge.”

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kero January 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I’d imagine that even if she was not invited, she would come out when the party is in full swing, grab a plate, and walk right up to you asking for food because she has nothing in her house.
When she started gossiping and saying all that private stuff….I think I would have lost it. Glad you just left them out in the dark.

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Abby January 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm

This was almost just a funny story the OP and her guests could laugh about later, until Laura started broadcasting the OP’s and her boyfriend’s private conversations. Who in her right mind would ever think it was OK to do that?

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Cordelia January 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I think it is extremely impolite to extend an invitation to “get a drink,” but not eat, at a party where there is food being served. Either invite her or don’t. Issuing a second-class invitation is incredibly crass and insulting. Regardless of how she wheedled an invitation out of you two, once your boyfriend made the decision to let her come, she should have been treated the same. If you don’t want to treat her the same as any other guest, don’t invite her at all. What’s going to happen if OP and boyfriend get married? If someone brings an unexpected guest to the wedding, they’ll let them come, as long as they don’t eat anything at the reception?

That said, any guest who begins to behave as she did should have been promptly asked to leave. They may not have had the legal grounds to throw her out of a backyard that she has ownership of, but it would have at least drawn a line between her unacceptable behavior and the celebration.

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Miss Raven January 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I’m also a bit of a pushover, but by the time she started becoming an obnoxious drunk, I would have been done. Agreed, the second she admitted to listening to your arguments through the wall, my response would have been to pull her aside (physically, if need be), tell her that her behavior was totally unacceptable and inconceivably rude, and ask her to go home until she can collect herself/sober up/whatever. This is a case where you can be as obvious as you need to: “It is none of anyone’s business what BF and I fight about, certainly not yours, and to divulge that information to our friends is really out-of-line and even ungracious, considering you are our guest. It is not funny, it is not charming, and you are making everyone around you uncomfortable, especially me.”

Don’t mince words; drunks don’t get subtlety.

I think it’s a little strange that she wanted to come to a party where she didn’t know anyone, but considering her apartment was “empty” it’s likely she was just interested in a free meal. After coming to that conclusion early on, I don’t know if I would have invited her to join in. Why would you want to put upon yourself like that? I can’t imagine dealing with a party crasher who only wanted to use you for your food and booze, with possible unforseen consequences.

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Angie January 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Well, the one good thing is that she moved out soon afterwards, otherwise she would have felt she could invite herself to all your parties after that.

And hopefully she and Mark didn’t become an item, so at least you don’t have to worry about seeing her again?

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Rebecca January 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm

It’s a difficult situation since it was in a shared back yard that Laura was entitled to use too. But I’ve lived in apartment houses with shared back yards too, and although I was friendly with the other tenants, nobody ever tried to intrude on each other’s gatherings. The other neighbours would just lie low and although they may pass by on the way to take out the garbage, they’d just wave a hello and go about their merry way. And perhaps the party thrower might invite the neighbour to partake of some of the food (out of politeness in recognition that a shared yard was being used, and so mitigate some of the inconvenience caused by a bit of extra noise). But nobody ever came in and took over like that.

Once Laura was immersed in the party though, I’m sure it would have been difficult to boot her out as she lived there too.

She only made herself look bad by telling everyone that she “pulls up a chair to listen” through the wall. I think it would have been appropriate to draw oneself up to full height and say very coldly, “Laura, what you are relating is NONE of your business and of no interest to anyone else.” Other friends there would have been supportive of this, I’m sure.

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Catwhisperer January 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Having a party in a “community” area of an apartment building can be a very, very trying experience. If the area is one that’s accessible to other residents, then you can pretty much take it for granted that you aren’t going to be able to keep them out. As OP found out, when other residents start getting inquisitive about what’s going on, it can be very awkward to discourage their interest without being rude. What makes it even worse is that as a general rule, the people who have good manners and respect for boundaries will behave themselves, but the people who have poor manners (or no manners at all) and entitlement issues will decide that because the party is in a public area, they have an absolute right to be there.

It’s my experience that when the refreshments at the party include alcohol, you need to expect the worst. The real boors and people who are problem drinkers are going to be drawn to the festivities like moths to a light, and you can bet they will drink hearty and drink fast so they can make the most of the opportunity before they’re asked to leave.

My own experiences lead me to conclude that if you live in an apartment building or complex and there isn’t an area that can be reserved and held for private parties, you’re probably better off not trying to have a large party in the public area of the apartment building. If you limit parties to a size that can be handled in your own living space, you can reasonably exclude the boors and problem drinkers. If you’re set on having a larger party than your living space can handle, you might seriously want to think about working with the management of the apartment to rope off an area, to make a physical boundary to keep people out.

And regarding “Laura” being an “earwitness” to OP’s argument with BF: when you live in an apartment building, you have to expect that if you get loud for any reason, people are going to listen. They just are. It can’t be helped. If you don’t want people knowing your business, you don’t get loud where they can hear it. While polite people will try to accord you privacy, it’s better if you don’t make it hard for them by conducting your business loudly.

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OP January 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone.

For those saying she probably would have just come out even without an invite, you’re probably right. She never came out when we were in the back just the two of us grilling, but the BF was outside for all of about 15 minutes (obviously setting up for a party) when she came out. She wanted the free booze and food and I have no doubt she would have come out as soon as the party was underway.

As for the conversation about the argument, yeah that was maybe the most uncomfortable 2 minutes of my life. We were actually just talking about the differences between our apartments when she said that she could hear us (the wall between our kitchens is paper thin and you can hear normal level conversation quite easily) and she heard us having a bad one, jokingly saying she pulls up a chair to listen. I just said, yeah, we can hear you, too, hoping (in vain, obviously) that she would realize I know as much about her as she knows about me (though I’ve never intentionally listened. We once had to call the police when she and her ex-BF were having a screaming fight at 2 a.m.). But as soon as she got into the specifics of the argument, I just left. Not sure I could have nipped it in the bud any sooner, but I was pretty floored that she would bring something like that up.

This whole thing was complicated by the fact that she had as much right to be in the backyard as we did. So BF’s invite to stop by for a drink was his way of saying, you’re not being kicked out of your own yard. I literally cringed when I heard him invite her, but I was inside, and there was nothing I could do at that point. But she took “stop by for a drink” to mean, be the first and last guest at a party you weren’t really invited to. The asking to stay for dinner thing was just uncomfortable. She literally had a plate in her hands, and walked up to me with about 8 other people around. I didn’t say no (and if she had pulled me aside and asked, I wouldn’t have said no, that’s not how I roll), but I felt like she was putting me on the spot so I *couldn’t* say no.

As an aside, if I had known at the time she was making our invited guests uncomfortable, I would have asked her to go inside her own place. But no one said anything until after the fact.

And no, she did not help clean up or assist in anyway. That would have made a huge difference.

@ Angie – She and Mark, thankfully, did NOT become an item (and apparently, my BF’s guy friend teased him pretty mercilously about Laura after the fact). It was just a one-time thing, luckily.

@Cordelia – As you probably read, we did feed her, and she drank plenty of our booze. She was treated the same as our other guests. Not sure where you’re getting that she wasn’t.

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Twik January 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I don’t see anything crass with extending a “drop by for a drink” invitation, when someone is basically wheedling (or demanding) to come by. They *know* they were not invited to the dinner. It’s not insulting them further by not saying “hey, come and eat with us”. Particularly when the host and the wannabe guest share a yard. How could one prevent someone from dropping by in such a situation?

It was not rude or crass. Doomed to failure, yes – but not rude.

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Geekgirl January 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Idon’t mean to disagree with anyone here, and this woman did behave disgracefully, but as it was a communal garden – i.e. partly her garden – surely excluding her from her own garden would also have been an etiquette breach? When I shared the use of a communal garden, the understanding was that if someone held a party in it, all neighbours that had use of the garden were invited.

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Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm

1. Yes, Laura was certainly boorish–no arguments there.

2. On the other hand, I have to agree with the people who are saying that there’s really no polite way to exclude someone from a party that’s literally happening right in her backyard–which it was, since the backyard was communal to both the OP and her boyfriend, and Laura as well. In that case, I would have either held the party elsewhere (maybe someone else’s house, or a park), or built a fence down the middle of the backyard upon moving in, if privacy was an issue in general. It’s different hosting a party in a communal backyard than having it in the park, because the park may be a “public” area, but visiting the park is non-essential, whereas the communal backyard was technically an extension of Laura’s home.

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admin January 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Sooo, if someone has a party or a wedding reception in a public park, passersby are not to be excluded from the festivities? The Op indicated they were setting up for the party on their half of the generous sized yard and I see no obligation to include complete strangers in an intimate party merely because there is a proximity issue.

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karma January 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm

The only advice I’d disagree with would be the last piece. If a neighbor were to begin to repeat a private, hurtful argument they’d overheard, I’d probably say, “Whoa. Laura. I am sorry that you had to overhear the argument that day, but that is really NOT okay to talk about. Time to change the subject.”

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Pam January 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

To me, there is a big difference in saying “stop by and have a drink with your friend” and issuing a full invitation. I used to work with a neighbor’s father. The neighbor will say “Mom and Dad are coming over for dinner Sunday night. Why don’t you drop by for a cup of coffee after dinner”. There is no reason I’d expect to be invited to their family dinner.

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Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm

No, I said before–people don’t HAVE to visit the park, or they can stay in a different area of the park if they want to. It’d even be different if it was a shared courtyard or function room within the apartment complex–it’s communal space that doesn’t belong to anyone. A communal backyard is different, because it’s an extension on both people’s homes. So, for that reason, there really wouldn’t have been any way to tell Laura she had to stay inside for the duration of the party, because the backyard was also partly hers, and therefore (like I said before), an extension on her home.

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Louise January 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I suppose that, technically, Laura has full rights to the whole yard because she’s a paying tenant, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be politely excluded from one party. I lived in a similar apartment house a few years ago, and I certainly wouldn’t have crashed a party held in the yard just because technically I had rights to it. It’s still a private gathering even if it’s on shared space.

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Leah January 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I think you handled everything well….
BUT: Now you know your neighbors hear every screaming insult you throw at each other during an argument.

There is no ‘my half, your half’ in a shared yard.
Before having a private party in one, the hosts are supposed to inform the other legal users of the space, and request… how does it go… ‘their kind indulgence’ (I believe) for the time required. Leah

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chechina January 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I have to agree that Laura didn’t have a right to the party. However, my take on the situation was a surprised, “She didn’t know there was going to be a party in her backyard?!” No, she wasn’t invited or required to be invited, but it was her backyard too and she should know when strangers are going to be at her back door. Also, she could have planned something that night that might have interfered. And not to mention it’s much easier to tell someone/ be told by someone that they’re not/you’re not invited to a party if there’s time to make other plans.

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Skoffin January 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm

If I heard someone begin to tell all those around me about private conversations I’d had and I was unable to get them to stop I’d be tempted to go ‘la lalalalalaa lalalala’ outloud until they stopped. I’m not sure that would be okay or not, but I’d rather risk being seen as rude then to have everyone know about my private affairs. Yikes.

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Calliope January 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

In response to the admin’s comment RE public parks, I’d say the difference is that the backyard wasn’t public property; it was private property to which the OP and her boyfriend and Laura all had equal right. It wasn’t like the OP and her boyfriend owned a yard adjacent to Laura’s; it was all one yard. It’s a tricky situation.

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Kat January 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Yeah, I have to agree with the admin here. I live in an apartment complex with an outdoor pool, and sometimes people have bbq/pool parties. This doesn’t mean I am invited to share the food they’re serving. I can swim in the pool or hang around the general area if I want, but they’re under no obligation to feed/entertain me just because I live in the same apartment building.

They also don’t have to do my laundry just because we share machines ;-)

I think Laura was more than welcome to walk around her backyard during the time of the party, but the OP wasn’t required to play “host” to her, and Laura probably shouldn’t have imposed her company on someone else’s guests (certainly not in the manner in which she did!)

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The Other Me January 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Wouldn’t etiquette – or at least common courtesy – hold that you don’t crash a party, even if it’s being held in a communal backyard? It might have been a little different if the OP and her friends were taking up the entire yard, thus confining Laura inside, but it sounds like they were sticking to ‘their’ side. I’ve lived in apartment complexes with public courtyards, gazebos and swimming pools and I’ve never even considered crashing someones celebration just because it’s being held on ground that technically belongs to me as well.

IMHO, that one detail doesn’t make up for the litany of etiquette blunders she committed.

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Annie January 18, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I may be the only one still living with roommates I didn’t know before moving in, but even if it’s my home, too, I don’t intrude on someone else’s socializing, and expect the same from them. As long as I’m not monopolizing the living room, on the times I do use it, I expect them not to barge in and start playing youtube clips three feet from the couch where I’m watching TV. If they’re having dinner with their boyfriends, I don’t invite myself and avoid spending time in there.

Yes, there’s no way to enforce people being polite, but that’s why it’s called etiquette, not law.

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Rebecca January 19, 2011 at 3:10 am

I agree with “The Other Me.” While it’s a nice gesture to say “come on and join us!!” to a neighbour who shares the same back yard, one is not obligated to do so. Having a shared back yard means neighbours may use it from time to time to entertain. You aren’t prevented from using the space too, but etiquette requires that you recognize it’s a private party, stand back, and give the people a bit of space unless invited. And then you expect those neighbours to do the same for you when you want to have people over.

However, once she was firmly ensconced in the party, I’m sure it would have been hard to ask her to go home, as the obvious response would be, “I am home!!”

It would have been nice if the friends had said (when Laura was repeating details of what she overheard), “Yeah, Laura, I really don’t think we want to hear about that….that’s kind of personal, don’t ya think?”

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kero January 19, 2011 at 3:55 am

@Kat:
Your post sums up what I feel about the shared property issue. The comment “They also don’t have to do my laundry just because we share machines ” made me LOL, thank you!

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jenna January 19, 2011 at 9:39 am

It is absolutely true that Laura had no right to an invitation, though honestly I probably would have invited her anyway (usually if I’m holding a gathering that gets up to 20 people, I pull an “all are welcome” party) and not really thought much about Laura’s etiquette breach.

Once she got out of hand, though, she’d have been sent coldly on her way.

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Michelle P January 19, 2011 at 9:45 am

It’s easy to say “You should have…” “I would have…” after the fact. The OP handled that very well. It’s harder when you’re in the situation. To the posters saying “Laura” had every right to know about this party and/or be invited, I disagree. The OP clearly states that the backyard was divided, and even if it wasn’t, common sense dictates that you don’t go where you weren’t invited, and you don’t wrangle an invitation, and certainly don’t behave that way once you’ve forced your way in. I totally agree with Admin with the park analogy; I had my wedding at a park (very small wedding, but still) and people walking and driving by came up, sat on the benches, and watched the whole time.

@chechina, so every time someone in an apartment building makes plans to have an event in the yard/building, every other tenant should be informed so they can “make other plans”??? Ridiculous.

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--Lia January 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

One etiquette rule says that you must invite neighbors to a party that’s being held in their own shared back yard, and, once there, they must be treated as all other guests. There’s no hierarchy that says some get one drink, some get full meals.

Another etiquette rule says that drunks must be sent home and not allowed to impinge on the enjoyment of other guests, even if this causes a scene.

The second rule takes precedence over the first. At the first hint of Laura’s drunken misbehavior, the hostess had an obligation to apologize to her guests, and throw the the drunk out. Ask for help if necessary; maybe ask for help from one of the married men she was hitting on.

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Elizabeth January 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Michelle P is exactly right – in the heat of the moment, it’s far more difficult to make a snap judgement than it is after the fact when you have time to calmly assess the situation and reason out the “correct” course of action. The OP did exactly what I would have done in that she attempted to accommodate this woman in the most polite way possible due to circumstances that were somewhat out of her control (boyfriend inviting rude invitation-seeking neighbor in; said rude neighbor bringing up what sounds like a very sensitive, embarrassing and delicate issue in a very public arena, etc) until the neighbor’s behavior finally demanded a more extreme reaction. The OP is to be commended on how well she handled herself. I don’t know that I could have been half as polite.

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Catwhisperer January 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

The people who are saying that in a situation where someone is having a “private” function in communal area, polite people won’t intrude, are missing the point: you don’t worry about polite people, the ones who are going to make you miserable are the ones who aren’t polite, who don’t recognize social boundaries, and whose sense of entitlement makes them decide that what they want is more important than behaving with courtesy towards other people.

That’s why having a “private” event in a communal area is a high-risk activity. Of course the polite people, the courteous people, the people who have an instinctive understand of etiquette, will behave themselves. The ones who are going to ruin the event are the ones who think etiquette is for wussies, that their right to be free of social constraints supersedes your right to not have them intrude on you, and the ones for whom the attraction of free alcohol blots out every other thought.

Polite people don’t end up figuring in “Etiquette Hell” stories. At least not as the people who have you thinking “I can’t believe he/she was that rude!”

From my own experience and discussion with others, it’s just a really, really bad idea to have a “private” party, especially one where alcohol is served to guests, in a non-private area of an apartment building or complex. The people who are the biggest problems are the ones most likely to intrude, and once they’ve intruded, they’re really, really hard to deal with without getting into problems. Much better to limit the size of the party to what you can handle in your private living space so you can keep the “Lauras” of the world out.

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jenna January 19, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I actually agree with chechina…not “so she can make other plans” but that it is polite (though not strictly necessary) to inform others in a large shared space if you are going to be having a party. Not so they can “make other plans” but so that they are aware of potential noise and, if they wish, make plans to be out at that time to avoid it…or not if they don’t care.

Every year we host a fairly large Christmas party in our apartment (maybe 20 people). I always let the landlady downstairs know as she lives right below us, so that she will be aware that there will be a lot of noise from above (she doesn’t always inform us of her karaoke parties – we live in Asia, see – but that’s OK. We don’t really care). She’s about our age so we do invite her and her husband, though she’s never intended. I just consider it the polite thing to do, though I know I’m not required to do so by etiquette.

So I fail to see how this is “ridiculous” at all!

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karma January 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Well, I think the big difference between a public park and the backyard of a duplex-style apartment is that the public park doesn’t “belong” to anyone. In the situation above, the back yard does equally belong to both renters, so keeping one out of a space she is paying for does seem to be a different circumstance.

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J May 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I admit I am stunned by the obvious need for better reading comprehension skills. The WHOLE SPACE was not communal. Each tenant had a “side” of the yard. It would be just as if you lived in a suburb and no fences had been put up. You would still know where YOUR backyard was. Would you expect a neighbor to demand an invitation or to throw up their lawn chair in what was obviously your section of backyard? No. Some of you are obviously from the, “omg, EVERYONE has to feel warm and fuzzy, so we can’t hang “A” papers on the bulletin board because that makes some people saaaaaaaaaaaad! *pout* *glittery tear*” school of thought.

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Thomas January 7, 2012 at 12:34 am

Sorry I’m just posting a cathartic rant because I work with a very boorish, egocentric, lout and getting tired of it. He is totally insensitive to people around him; not just me.

He, a grown man making good coin about $75000, has the audacity to help himself by the handful to complimentary cookies and candy coworkers put out to share but has never reciprocated by offering things back. In fact, he even mooches food asking for half of whatever someone is eating and constantly mooched off me until I told him to stop at which he got very offended. He has had people treat him to lunch but never treats the person back.

He eats like a pig at a trough eating meals at his desk making the most annoying chewing noises that are beyond human eating noises and won’t stop eating to take a business phonecall. In fact, he will often initiate a busines call and eat while talking to people on the phone totally oblivious of his rude behavior.

He has offended people with obnoxious emails, even making one woman cry, and has had “talking to’s” from managers yet is still clueless about his boorishness and concludes people are just picking on him. In fact, our supervisor doesn’t know what to do anymore.

He is extremely hypersensitive to even perceived criticism and gets angry if one were to say something as innocuous as asking him to turn down the volume of his cel phone novelty ring tone which is set to its highest level in a shared work environment. Yet he is extremely arrogant of criticizing everthing from people’s taste in music, to people’s favorite restaurants and condescending when people ask him for an opinion. He is so into himself and totally insensitive.

And if it sounds like I’m just an intolerant person I’m not the only person at work who feels this way. No one can stand him. He does not have one friend in the workplace while I go out with a social circle to lunch, and outside of work, and not one of them want to invite him. Yet he is incredibly clueless about his own tactless behavior and cries harassment, or being a victim of social snobbery rather than being introspective and seeing where he needs to improve.

I figure this guy has narcissitic personality disorder because he acts like a know-it-all, flies off the handle and acts like a thin skinned drama queen if he perceives criticism, and has a feeling of entitlement in fact the worse case I’ve ever seen from someone.

I can’t believe I may have to work with this idiot forever. :-(

Thanks for listening!

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