I was a little bit hurt when the lovely doorbell set with the pretty brass plate was still in its box several months after I gave it to my parents as a gift. THEN, when they were out of town for a week and I ran by on my lunch to feed the fish, I realized why (explained further by my Mom later).
The elderly lady next door came over the MINUTE I drove into the driveway. I had brought my salad from home, intending to spend my bit of free time lunching in front of my folks' CABLE TV, but she came in, and stood in the kitchen, swaying back and forth, and talking of everything under the sun. There was a long list of who had incurable illness, of who had "passed on" and who did or didn't go to church.
I was afraid to invite her on down into the den, hoping she'd go soon, but she just stood there. I said, "I'm just here on my lunch hour; I've got to get back soon." She just stood swaying and talking. She's a dear old thing, and was living next-door before I was born, but she's just so lonely, I suppose, and just doesn't realize that she isn't welcome every minute you're home.
So I finally ushered her out, with minutes to spare for lunch. The next day, I was on my guard, and saw her curtain drop as I drove in. I knew I could get into the house before she could cross the yard, but she would KNOW I was there. And for someone to wait and watch---stalkerish as it is, was so pathetically needy---what a lonely life she must have, to time her whole MORNING to that moment when a bit of human contact could be had.
So I chatted a minute in the drive, and headed into the house. She followed me up the steps and caught the screen; I said I have to eat quick and get back. She said don't mind me---I've had mine. And stayed. I just hate like anything to make someone leave my home, my space, and know how I'd feel if someone just put me out and closed the door.
And every day, like clockwork, she appeared the moment my car entered the driveway. One day she had a piece of needlework to show me. Another, she had her windup clock in her hand, inquiring the correct time. (All she had to do was wait til the stroke of Days of Our Lives---one of her main topics of conversation, then she'd KNOW it was one o'clock). I'd stand blocking the door; she'd suddenly need a cup of sugar or some aspirin---I’d go to get it, she’d follow, and it was like herding cats, taking many repetitions of "I'm really busy" and the repeat of "I must eat and run"/"Oh, Honey, don't mind me." I DID mind, and just hoped not to explode before my week was out.
And thus, I am now at a loss as to the cheery welcome those uninvited neighbors would receive from all the posters who would usher them in with open arms. Every time. OP DID say she loves entertaining her friends, but wishes to have the luxury of inviting them and preparing accordingly.
She's acquainted with the neighbors, but from the first, she's told them her wishes and her terms---we'll do each other the courtesy of a call before coming over.
Three weeks in a row these people appear armed with pie? Always at dinnertime? It loses the kindness and generosity of a gift because of the accompanying expectation of entertainment and dinner. It's sweet blackmail, because she's accepted their hospitality, and they insist on receiving hers. And it works for them. But how many dinners will pay off the debt? It's beginning to sound like living down the hall from the Castevets.
I'd like to take a poll of all the posters: How many times have you cheerfully invited in an unexpected guest at dinnertime? How many weeks would you succumb to their bait, even if it IS pie, before calling a halt?
And my parents never DID install that doorbell.