Miss Conduct

Advice: How to tell would-be guests they aren’t making the cut

Plus, helping a friend to stay sober.

Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

I throw a BIG annual party and sometimes cut people from the list. When they ask if I am still throwing the party, what do I say? That the invite must be in the spam filter, of course they should come, right?

L.B. / Wayland

Pretty much, yes, unless you have a steel spine and have disinvited the person for actual cause. It’s not unreasonable of folks to ask; traditional etiquette deems it rude to chase after invites, but common sense says that big, regular, practically-an-institution parties are a different matter. People like to know you’re still playing Host with the Most.

If you did cut someone from the list for a particular reason — individual bad behavior or some kind of group cull — now’s the time for honesty. Plan your wording when you prepare the guest list: “I’m so sorry, Jill, the party’s been getting out of hand and we’ve cut back on inviting people from the office this year.”


Presumably, most of the people you cut from the list are those who haven’t shown up for several years. Keep inviting them. Wanting to be invited but not going is so 2018 it’s almost 2019, just like this column.

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I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic. The friends he used to party with keep trying to get him to go out with them, and we all know where that will lead. Can I do something to help shut them down? Can his wife? Or does it have to be him?

Anonymous / Boston

Ask your recovering friend whether he would like support, and in what form. (I wouldn’t presume to say what his wife should or should not do, since she’s not the one who asked me — and dealing with addiction in a family context is a whole ’nother kettle of fish.)

In the moment, if you witness someone being pressured to accept a drink, please butt in! The holidays make some people bloody-minded about forcing others to imbibe the spiked eggnog or eat the latke, recovery or diabetes or food allergies or cholesterol be damned. Nip that behavior in the bud whether it’s directed at you or someone else.

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