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Jewish Journal

Dinner Party Faux Pas

by  Merissa Nathan Gerson

May 31, 2010 | 7:45 am

You can't own a guest. They have to invite you back on volition rather than obligation.

Dear Yenta,

I’ve invited people to dinners several times and they have not invited me over. What gives? Have people lost their manners?

-Dining Solo

Dear Dining Solo,

Everyone goes through dry spells in their social lives. These spells are often a result of a) poor circumstances b) bad choice of company and c) sometimes when people are going through hard times they can be crap company for any number of reasons, ie, neediness, abrasiveness, general hostility, controlling conversations or for being plain old boring.

My first questions would be, who are you inviting over and why? Are these people you really truly like, people who you truly connect with, or are you inviting guests over to fill a void?

When I was little my mom taught me to ALWAYS invite people if they had invited me. I was taught to include absolutely everyone and to make an effort to help people feel comfortable wherever they were. But when I done growed up, I found it tedious to be including people who didn’t enhance my dinner table.

It is important to give just to give, not to receive. Invite people without expectation, have them over and enjoy them for what they are and don’t expect a reciprocal invitation. Giving is not predicated upon receiving.
If the thirst for a return invitation is glaringly obvious it turns off your guests, who don’t want to be cornered into social commitment. This is actually the pits, when you get attached to an outcome with a new friend and practically yank at their shirt to hold on to them and their company. Nobody puts baby in a corner. It will drive them off, far off.

Also, not everyone likes having people over. Often times you invite people to dinner who don’t even host their own dinners, let alone cook. So what you take as an insult is actually a logistical dilemma. Andrea Zuckerman never invited anyone from Beverly High over because she lived in the projects and they all lived in mansions. (That and she was lying about her identity.)

In the end, I think the trick here is to host a dinner for the fun of it and to always be sincere about who you invite. Maybe suggest you do dinners more often, see if that suggestion prompts them to want to have you over in return. Often times the dinner-party-haver seems so confident and so popular that people don’t even bother reaching out. Make your needs and desires clear, “this was fun, let’s do it again soon.” Maybe even say you’ll call them soon, and then CALL THEM.

People may also have, as you said, simply lost their manners. Remember that everyone is raised differently, and that even though you aren’t being invited to dinner, you may be overlooking their expression of gratitude and friendship in a less predictable form. Be open to being cared for in more than one way, not just via dinner invitations. One wise woman once said, “A kiss is not a contract.” I would say the same goes for invites.

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