Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

It happened again! I am a fairly social person, but I do not expect to be invited to every party an acquaintance might give. However, I am not interested in knowing about them either.

Call me sensitive, but I feel a bit hurt when someone begins telling me, or a group I may be part of, what a wonderful time they had at the dinner at so-and-so’s house—a dinner to which I was not invited although I know the hostess. Am I being unreasonable to think that some social news should be kept to those who care about it?

VJ, White Stone

Dear VJ, although there are many levels of sensitivity in this world, I think very few of us enjoy hearing how great a gathering was to which we have not been invited by a friend, or sometimes even an acquaintance. We certainly shouldn’t expect to be on everyone’s “A list,” and we can rationally expect that our friends sometimes have good times together, without us! However, it is also rational to not want to listen to details of what we missed in those instances.

On the flip side, the host and hostess might not want their private party to be publicly touted. There are many reasons why guest lists sometimes don’t include our names and we shouldn’t try to second guess the hostess’s decision.

Many important points of polite behavior are not covered in the published rules of etiquette. That is where the larger area of manners must be called upon. The two virtues upon which continuance of a polite society are based are respect and kindness. The situation you present, VJ, is not in the books per se, but it IS within the purview of a polite society, which would find the risk of being hurtful not worth the telling of the experience.

The next time you find yourself being an unwilling listener, simply excuse yourself from the group, or change the subject with, “Speaking of parties, does anyone have a good recipe for clam dip?”

Thank you for writing, VJ.

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at