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Monday question: Hostess with the leastest

Posted by Robin Abrahams  February 20, 2012 06:33 AM

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Today's question is one I've gotten versions of before:

A friend from grade school recently invited my family of 3 to dinner at her home - once the invitation was extended and accepted, I was asked to bring crudités, salad and dessert for the group of 8. We also brought a hostess gift. I happily complied: grocery shopping, cooking the day of the meal, and loading up the car with platters. Once the meal was over, the host began doing her dishes and, feeling uncomfortable just watching her, I helped. 

As my children and I walked out the door thanking them for hosting us, we were carrying our dirty dishes back home to do ourselves...all in all a lot of work was spent being the "guests" at this party. It?s not just this one friend, but every invitation we receive follows the same protocol: guests bring half the meal and clean the host?s dishes with them. Frankly, I am confused by this behavior - this is not what my mom taught me to do when entertaining and this is not how I entertain my friends in return. I feel it's rude to show up empty-handed, but I also feel you thank someone for hosting you by reciprocating in kind, not by helping them host their dinner party. Am I being old fashioned or expecting too much?

What do you think? And have you experienced this kind of hospitality before? I'll post my advice on Friday. Enjoy your long weekend! (And send in your own Miss Conduct questions -- I know you've got them!)

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

Need Advice?

Curious if you should say "bless you" to a sneezing atheist? How to host a dinner party for carbophobes, vegans, and Atkins disciples—all at the same time? The finer points of regifting? Ask it here, or email missconduct@globe.com.

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