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Emotional Hardbody answers: What do you do with a surly dinner party guest?

Emotional Hardbody answers: What do you do with a surly guest?

flowers in a vase

Dear Emotional Hardbody,

Last Friday I had a few people over for a small dinner party. My friend Amber arrived just as I was pulling the lasagna and garlic bread out of the oven. Amber handed me a bouquet of flowers when she greeted me. I thanked her for them, then returned to the business of serving dinner.

Thanks to wine and great conversation the dinner stretched over a couple of hours. Eventually, various friends began to leave. As I was clearing away the dessert dishes, Amber followed me into the kitchen to say goodbye. Once in the kitchen Amber’s face suddenly dropped. The flowers she had brought were lying on the kitchen counter right where I had set them after she initially handed them to me.

Amber grabbed the bouquet and gave me a piece of her mind. She told me she thought it was rude of me to have neglected to put the flowers in a vase. She then said since it was obvious I didn’t appreciate her gift, that she would take the flowers home with her and she would find an extra 30 seconds to fill a vase with water and plop them into it.

She left in a huff and I was stunned. I certainly didn’t mean to intentionally slight her by not putting the flowers in a vase. The truth is I just forgot about them because I was so busy trying to get dinner served. I emailed her an apology, but I haven’t heard back from her. 

Part of me feels bad that she thinks I didn’t care about her hostess gift; but part of me thinks she’s being overly prickly. What do you think?


Thorny Issue

Dear Thorny,

So, the bloom is off your friendship with Amber over a bouquet of flowers and you feel bad? Let's nip that in the bud. If anyone should be apologizing, it’s Amber. Hostess gifts are supposed to thank the hostess for her hard work, not punish her by giving her more work to do.

Hostess gifts should never require assembly. If Amber wanted to bring flowers, she should have brought them already in a vase. But bringing a bunch of cut flowers and then getting snippy when the hostess doesn’t drop what she is doing, get a vase and arrange them is sort of like bringing a box of cake mix and a can of icing to a dinner party and then getting upset when the hostess doesn’t serve up that cake for dessert.

Because Amber brought a hostess gift that required assembly, it was up to her to finish the job. In other words, she should have asked you to point her in the direction of a vase so she could put them in water herself.

And the fact that her gift required assembly wasn’t the only problem with it. Amber’s gift also came with secret expectations. Secret expectations often come into play when guests bring bottles of wine to a party. Some guests get mad when the bottle gets opened because they secretly expected the host to save it for later. Other guests get mad when the bottle doesn’t get opened because they secretly expected to get to drink some of it themselves. Either way, the secret expectations are unreasonable and rude.

But I can’t tell you what not to bring and how not to act without offering any helpful suggestions. That would be like showing up at a dinner party empty handed, then criticizing the gifts that everyone else brought.  When it comes to foolproof hostess gifts, you can never go wrong with a warm bottle of champagne. Because it’s warm, it’s clear that you do not intend for it to be served that evening. And because it’s champagne, the hostess is sure to love it. (Unless, of course, your hostess is a nondrinker, in which case you should bring a small box of chocolates — enough for the hostess to enjoy, but not enough to share with the entire crowd.)

By the way, if this incident causes a permanent rift between you and Amber, I’d be happy to take her spot at the table when you have your next dinner party. I love lasagna and garlic bread! And I’ll bring a bottle of rosé that you can open whenever you want — and rosé is as close to bringing flowers as I’ll come.

Bon appetit! 

Emotional Hardbody