Ask Marge

I Don’t Want to Invite a Couple Friends Over for My Socially-Distanced Barbecue Because They Haven’t Been Careful During the Pandemic. Is That OK?

published Jul 13, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
older couple wearing masks socially distance from kids
Credit: Image: Getty Images

Dear Marge,

I want to have a small barbecue for friends, but I don’t want to invite my whole friend group. For one thing, it is just too many people to try to keep social distanced in my small yard. Also, because some friends haven’t been as careful as others, I feel like they put everyone else at risk. I know anyone I don’t invite will hear about it, so should I just scrap the whole idea?

A Timid Hostess

Dear Hostess,

First, I take issue with the way you signed your letter, because I don’t think you are being “timid” at all — you are being appropriately cautious and socially responsible. 

In these times, whether willingly or not, we are all responsible for each other’s health and well-being through our own actions. If I hang out at a crowded bar without a mask and then come to your party, I put everyone at your gathering at risk. And if you invite me, knowing I have engaged in that risky behavior, then you are ostensibly also putting your other friends at risk. 

Have your small, socially-distanced gathering. When you invite a select group of friends, let them know you are only inviting as many people as you can accommodate with properly spaced seating. As overly dramatic as this may sound, it is true that you could actually save lives. You can’t possibly know who has underlying conditions, or will be in contact with someone who does. And you certainly won’t know who is an asymptomatic carrier. Your caution helps arrest the spread of the virus.

Your response to friends who are not invited is simple: You can only fit a few people at a time and adhere to current social distancing guidelines. Some friends will appreciate knowing you are acting responsibly, but others may poo-poo the guidelines. For those people, you may want to shut down the conversation by simply saying you are doing what you think is right and socially responsible. (It can be a really divisive issue, so be prepared with your response ready in case of pushback.) A lovely way of “bridging the gap,” so to speak, is to say that you look forward to seeing them after this is all over. Because one day, it will be. And until then, we can all take care of one another by wearing masks and keeping our distance.

— Marge

Have a question for Marge? Send her an email.