Party Etiquitte: House Trained Guests

Daisy knew the "burnt dinner" ploy would get her out of cooking for the Branch Manager's visit
...good manners are not a matter of snobbery but of considering other people's feelings...

Over the years I've had trouble explaining to my husband what I mean by "house trained" guests without sounding like a complete snob. But I've come to realise that good manners are not a matter of snobbery but of considering other people's feelings. Un-house trained guests aren't just more "casual" or "fun" than other guests; they are unthinking tactless, rude and deliberately hurt other people's feelings. Usually the only time you put up with them is if their partner is a really good friend - and even then you feel like suggesting to them at a later date that they "upgrade" their choice of mate!!

A few years ago we had some friends around for dinner; a couple my other half knew and a couple we'd just met but we were keen to know. One of the male guests had too many drinks (for breakfast!) and by the end of dinner turned to our would-be friends and asked her why she didn't like "back door" (not the way he worded it!) sex (because apparently all women hate it). She was so mortified she picked up her coat, grabbed her man and they left. 

It's always hours later that I suddenly go: "I should have said that!!" but of course it's too late. So often untrained house guests are digging themselves a giant hole and we all stare in horror at the crass rudeness of someone wishing we had the right phrase to stop them so in the interests of being a better host or guest I've worked out my best lines. Unfortunately these guests are all based on REAL people who have been at my, or friends', parties - how sad. Is it really that hard to be nice to people?

1. To the woman who gatecrashes a private restaurant dinner for four and monopolises the conversation the entire evening moaning about her friends (including her colleague at the table) so the rest of us can't catch up like we'd planned:

"I'm so sorry. I think you have the wrong table. We booked a table for four people who wanted to have a good time. Gatecrashers Anonymous is meeting at the restaurant next door."

2. To the famous socialite and philanthropist who ignores anyone at the table who can't help her (i.e. isn't rich, famous or royal enough):*

"Isn't it wonderful to have such a diverse range of people here, each with their own skills and talents, and we're all getting along so well!" then move on to asking one of the snubbed about what they do (pick the one you know has an interesting story) once they become the centre of attention she'll have to stop ignoring them or look incredibly bitchy.

3. To the new girlfriend who is meeting her other half's mates for the first time and can't shut up (or stop putting her foot in it): 

"I read an interesting quote by Confucius yesterday: Better to keep quiet and have people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and confirm it."
"Tim you need to take the batteries out of your sex toy"

4. To the new girlfriend who goes to a wedding without knowing anyone and spends the night telling everyone the some dodgy old man was trying to seduce her - and refuses to shut up even when some points out the "dodgy old man" is the Bride's father and has spent the last half hour trying to peel her drunk body off his leg: 

"Tim, you need to take out the trash"

5. To the know it all a**hole who starts every sentence with "Well, it's not like you women would know..." or "No, I'ts actually..." since when did they become an expert on everything?

"Do you hear that? It almost sounded like the tiny misogynistic tinkle of a pre-adolescent boy trying to assert his masculinity in the face of a society that has evolved so far beyond his comprehension he cannot understand the emancipation of feminine wisdom into the conventional facets of civilised society - or maybe it's just the sound of a bigoted git...."

Delia laughed at Howard's misogynistic jokes as she handed him the cakes with the laxative icing...
6. To the ill-bred prick who tries to start a conversation about shooting all Maoris/ lesbians/ disabled children at birth: 

"I don't think that's an appropriate conversation for polite company; maybe you should save it for your next meeting with the people in white coats"

7. To the crass idiot who interrogates the quietest, most polite guest with questions like: "Do you prefer ribbed or plain condoms?"

"I prefer men who know how to behave in public."
Or if you're feeling like starting an argument: "I don't know; what do your boyfriends prefer?"**

She thought it would be cheaper to invite me than to hire a maid...

8. To the hostess who rudely pulls you into the kitchen and asks you to do all the cooking and serve canapes to the guests so she can have the night off. This honestly happened to me and I was so stunned I couldn't move for 5 minutes. I didn't even get offered a drink and then she told the other guests I was the waitress for the night - turned out she thought it would be cheaper to invite me than to hire a maid and because I was single I should be "working" all night anyway because I didn't have a husband to look after like she did - talk about rubbing salt into a wound!

What I should have said was: "Sure" then made enough food for myself and taken it out the back with a couple bottles of the best champagne and watched everyone else starve or order pizza. Then sent a bill the next day for $80 an hour excluding taxes...

9. To the "woman past a certain age" who sees every other woman in the room as competition and every man as fair game (also known as the Silverback Cougar ).

I actually just sit back and laugh hysterically as my husband tries to peel off a drunk 65-year old in fishnets, mini skirt and sequined bra whilst giving me looks of sheer panic. What competition? 
It's said we dress for the era we feel happiest so these women obviously haven't felt happy since they were 16-year old prostitutes. Tell her the a**hole who starts every sentence with "Well, it's not like you women would know..." has a thing for older women and likes playing hard to get. Being a good hostess is all about letting your guests circulate right?

10. To the guest who is just plain rude whether it's the bloke who brings an empty chilly bin to fill with the hosts' beer (the "DIY doggie bag") and uses your herb garden as a toilet, or the woman who makes bitchy remarks about the hostesses cooking abilities, outfit or child raising skills, you really have to wonder why they bothered to "grace" you with their presence because they seem to be having such a terrible time anyway:

Grab their coat and bag and: "You're ride's here (it doesn't matter if they drove!), here's all your things, no wait, I'm missing something. Oh, that's right, you didn't bring your manners with you. See you another time! Bye!" and push them out the door into a taxi - or their own car. 

Cynthia secretely hoped no-one would turn up for the picnic so she could actually relax for the afternoon.

Be a good guest by...

  • Bringing something! Flowers, wine, chocolates, specialty bread, pesto...
  • ...just bring something a little more special than a 99c bag of budget brand chips from the dairy at the end of the street - nothing says: "I don't give a sh**t about you" than a cheap bag of chips
  • Most importantly bring a smile, even if you're not very witty (or just in a happy drunken haze) you can laugh at other people's jokes and listen to their stories and they'll think you're the nicest person in the world - it's really that easy
  • Use the toilet, aim inside the bowl! Avoid using bushes, the garden, the master bedroom en suite or the children's en suite - especially if they're in bed asleep - you don't want to look like a paedophile
  • Don't pick on anyone not drinking alcohol. I don't follow people around forcing them to eat organic beans why should you make me drink tequila when I don't want to?
  • Don't turn your back to anyone, if you have to, make sure you turn around and talk to them for a while too. This, of course, excludes any of the above guests who are rude and pissing you off.
  • Don't discuss the following: extreme politics, sex, whether someone is pregnant (if you have to ask assume they're not) or planning on getting pregnant (think about it, it's sex again!), secrets (yours, the hosts, anyone else's), your health (intimate details about your boils/contraceptives/bowel movements are gross. GROSS) or anything negative such as complaining about how lazy teachers are or that women over 50 shouldn't wear short skirts - you are almost guaranteed to offend someone who fits what you're bitching about!
  • Do ask questions about others such as what they do for a hobby, what music they love, where they're from, where they bought that gorgeous dress/ scarf/ bag from. Starting a conversation with a sincere complement is the best way to break the ice.  
  • But avoid those sentences that start with:  "You should..." "I don't know why you don't..." "I shouldn't be telling you this but..."
  • If you find yourself monopolising the conversation a bit use your position to include someone who hasn't said much. Ask them a question and let them take the talking lead for a while. (I'm hopeless, I have to sit on my hands so I know to shut up for a while).
  • Don't tell your children/partner, in front of all the guests, to help themselves to as much food as possible so you don't have to cook - hello trailer trash! 
  • Know when it's time to go home; staying until the hosts have gone to bed is pushing it a bit too far. Get a taxi into a local bar or nightclub if you want to keep partying.
  • Finally, don't take your leftovers home. If you bought a bottle of wine and there's a glassful left in it LEAVE IT THERE. Even if the host insists you can always weasel your way out of taking it home. It's really bad guest karma!

*I have to remain anonymous - as we know mixed jazz did hurt it!
**Not that there's anything wrong with being LGBT but nothing annoys a redneck more than making insinuations about his (hetero)sexuality - it's redneck kryptonite.

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