From time to time CHOW's resident etiquette expert, Helena Echlin, asks our readers for some advice. She has an interesting question from a reader right now, who has a puzzling set of friends. They are compulsive hosts, very generous. But they can't seem to accept a return favor.
Read on for the whole question, and please add your two cents! Helena will include some of your answers in her response at CHOW next week. Here's Helena's question, and the reader's whole letter below.
Helena: I'd love to hear what your readers think about this: When someone has you over for a meal, are you obliged to reciprocate? And what if they just won't let you? Should you just let them spoil you or can you compensate them in some other way? We all know someone like the couple described in the letter below — the Compulsive Hosts. I'd love to hear your readers' stories about such people and how they deal with them. Here's the letter I just received on the topic:
We have some relatively new friends, a married couple [who] have hosted more dinner/meal get togethers than we have, and every time I invite them to our place for dinner (and suggest they get back to us on what date is convenient for their schedule) more often than not, they ask us to come to their house instead of actually responding to the invitation to come to our house.
This has happened several times and no matter what I do to try and "even things up", the wife of this couple consistently turns an invitation from us into an invitation over to their house. They also tend to always bring a gift and give us gift certificates and extras that are sometimes embarrassing as we don't want them spending their hard earned money on us (and we've said that as sensitively as possible).
No matter how I've tried bringing up the subject diplomatically that we feel it's "our turn" to host, or they should "let us wait on them for a change", or even being so blunt as to say "you've hosted more dinners than we have so far and we really want it to be fair and even" on several occasions, it has gotten turned around. We always have a good time together but their doing more than what I think should be a fair share makes me feel we are being rude somehow. Today it happened again, and since my husband does not see any validity for my concerns, I am asking for advice.
—It’s My Turn
Readers... any thoughts?
• Visit Helena's column: Table Manners at CHOW
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