Just Behave

Just Behave: All Drink, No Think

Our etiquette expert answers your questions.

BY May 18, 2018


I’m in a book club, and some of the members come to the meetings and haven’t read the book we are to discuss. They just drink wine and laugh. I’m angry because I want to learn and they aren’t contributing. What should I do? — Melinda, Fort Myers

Dear Melinda,

Read between the lines here. Your group may be called a book club, but some members have turned the page on that and view it more as a time for good conversation and a glass or so of wine. Which is perfectly social and nice—but not to your taste. Bring up your concerns at the next gathering. If others agree with you, fine. If not, start your own club where books are the main course and the wine a pleasant pairing.


Recently, a friend of mine asked if my husband and I would like to get together Saturday night for dinner. While I consider her a friend, she and her husband are not a couple we’d like to socialize with other than events that involve our daughters. When I declined, she angrily responded that this would be the LAST TIME she would ask us to do something, because “we always say no.” Now my feelings are hurt, but I still don’t want to get together with them. Should we go out with them anyway? — Roberta, Naples

Dear Roberta,

There doesn’t seem to be much ground for friendship, does there? You don’t enjoy their company, and she seems incredibly insecure and rudely childish at the slightest hint of rejection. It’s hard to see much bonding in the future. So why be upset, and why even think about dinner with a couple you don’t really like? It would kill your appetite for the food and the joy of companionship. Just stick with friends, old and new.

I was invited to join a group for dinner at an outdoor restaurant during an open-air art show. A few days before, I let the friend who invited me know that I had a cold and that I wouldn’t know if I could attend until the day of the event. I obviously didn’t want to attend if I felt sick and didn’t want to endanger other attendees. (I thought I was being thoughtful.) My friend called me back to let me know that the group organizer said that I shouldn’t come because she didn’t want her elderly husband to be susceptible to my illness. Now, I’m furious. I was the one being cautious and now I’m uninvited. I could easily be well before the event, and I wouldn’t even need to sit next to her husband (10 people were invited). — Joan, Bonita Springs

Dear Joan,

Let’s allow that she was concerned about her husband. But why couldn’t she have waited for your report on the day of the event? You were being thoughtful and gracious. And, by the way, since this was an outdoor event, her husband could catch a cold from anyone passing by (even the server). Pulling your invitation back was kind of abrupt and hurtful. But chalk it up to an overprotective wife and be the bigger person here. Forgive and move on.

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