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.