Miss Conduct

Advice: Our college-aged son’s friends have no manners, and we’re paying for it

We paid for his plane ticket to be with friends, should we talk to the family about honoring their invitations?

We could not afford to fly our college freshman son home for Thanksgiving, but when his out-of-state roommate’s family invited him to join them, we bought him a discount air ticket. The family decided to spend the holiday at a different place, and “disinvited” our son. A local friend then invited him but at the last minute also withdrew the invitation — the grandparents did not want to include “non-family.” I want to say something to these families,  but do not want to interfere with my son’s relationships. Am I wrong to believe that an invitation is a commitment to be honored?

L.C. / Boston

Yes, an invitation is a commitment to be honored.

But, is “You should totally hang with us for Thanksgiving, brah” an invitation? Therein lies the (turkey) rub. What the listener may take as a firm offer of hospitality, the speaker may have intended as a hypothetical option, or indeed as a mad flight of fancy. Clearly, miscommunications occurred. Who knows where the mistake truly lies?


It is a bad idea to buy nonrefundable tickets based on Person A’s report of Person B’s report of Person C’s invitation.

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Awkward situations are part of growing up. In our first year in Boston, a grad-school friend invited my partner and me to a potluck that wasn’t quite as open as she’d believed, and she didn’t work up the guts to tell us we weren’t invited after all until the day before. My boyfriend and I ended up at the Bull & Finch, a.k.a. the “Cheers Bar,” where no one knew our names, nor did they appear especially glad we came. Spending Thanksgiving drinking overpriced whiskey shots at a bar made famous by a sitcom is a uniquely American experience of loser-dom everyone should have once.

It was such a pathetic story that the following autumn we were deluged with invitations. This is how you learn. Not all education occurs in the classroom. I think your son is having an excellent freshman year. Give thanks!

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Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

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