Hello Jeanne and fellow Etiquette Hell readers,
I recently had a visit from an old friend (let’s call him M) and we were talking about an incident that I would like your opinion about.
This happened about five years ago while we were both in our 4th year of college. I was living by myself near the campus and wanted to invite a couple old friends from out of town up for New Year’s Eve. I invited M and another friend E, both male. The invitations were verbal over the phone something like “Hey, want to come stay here for New Years? I’m inviting E/M too.” My thought was that we would just have a guys night out.
E arrived first and we were watching t.v. until M got there. However, he did not arrive alone. He brought his girlfriend (H) with him. I was surprised because I had not said anything to him about bringing her along and he did not say anything to me about bringing her. I even thought back to when he called to tell me he was on his way there, he did not say we are on our way there. It caused some tension later that night, but in the end we all had a good time.
When I brought this story up at the recent visit with M he told me I should have expected him to bring the girl he was dating at the time. We then asked another friend who heard the story what he thought and he agreed that if M was dating someone at the time I should have expected her to come along with him. My question for you is, should I have expected him to bring her? If so, shouldn’t he have at least told me that he was bringing someone else who would be staying the night in my home?
Thank you for your advice.
First, let me give you a hearty “way to go” for making the effort to be a hospitable kind of guy and second, to commend you for wanting to do it right. It warms my soul.
The first error was on your part to not have communicated clearly that this was a guy’s only event. While you intended your guest list to be limited to those with a surplus of testosterone, it’s unlikely they read between the lines and your mind to know that for certain. Had they, M would have either declined or asked to bring his girlfriend anyway. My college senior son hosts the occasional evening party he calls “Man, Meat, Movie” and it’s obvious by the name that anything that doesn’t have a Y chromosome is not a part of the party plans. (When he was in high school, we hosted a party called “The He-Man Fellowship of Manliness” which involved a very aggressive form of capture the flag in the pouring rain, mud wrestling and consumption of large amounts of beef. No ambiguity there!) So, extend your invitations with the clear message of the theme, in this case, it was to have been “Guys Night”.
M was wrong to assume an invitation given to him to sleep over at your house was also extended to his girlfriend. While etiquette does recognize that dating couples can be a social unit and should be invited together for parties and dinners, there are exceptions to that which are weddings and overnight sleeping arrangements. A host is never under an obligation to extend invitations to weddings or their home to the date of their intended guest. I know many of the younger generation think that just because pre-marital sex is so culturally prevalent that this excuses their presumptions that hosts should welcome and extend hospitality to those presuming to sleep together under their roof. Had an invited house guest made that presumption upon my hospitality and showed up with an additional uninvited house guest, the awkward level would peak pretty high and quickly as the words, “I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate that request”, came out of my mouth. Arrangements would have been made to bed them separately and therefore the awkwardness continues because I would not have been prepared for that scenario.
M should have asked you if H could come and then you would have had to decide which mattered more to you, having M (with H) come to your party or keep to your original plan of having a guy’s only theme which would have been limited to you and E. But let’s face it, New Year’s Eve ranks high up there for holidays that lovers want to be together to celebrate the start of a new year. M probably would not have come at all if you had excluded H. Such are the dilemmas of all hosts and hostesses!