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Miss Manners: Tight fit at table when guest brings a guest

Mon., Feb. 17, 2014

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister was hostessing a luncheon for 12, and to her dismay, a guest showed up with her own guest, announcing to my sister, “I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

There was the table set for 12, which was all it would comfortably accommodate, with the china service for 12 laid out on the best tablecloth. Horribly awkward!

I think I’d have been frozen in the doorway, but my sister let them in, despite her shock, and tried to conceal that she was laying a stray extra plate at a hastily added place. To my way of thinking, the guest should have been allowed to feel the full embarrassment of her actions … if she was capable of it. Something along the lines of, “Your guest is welcome, but now you are the extra person for whom I have no space.”

Please, Miss Manners, what would be the correct thing to do in such circumstances?

GENTLE READER: The wisest thing to do, whenever someone says, “I knew you wouldn’t mind,” is to run. No good will follow.

Unfortunately, your sister was not in a position to do this, as she was at home with guests. Miss Manners congratulates her for behaving politely, although she deeply sympathizes with your desire to chastise the presumptuous guest.

A compromise that might squeak through as accidental would be to say sweetly to the offender, “I’m sure you won’t mind squeezing in a bit to make room for your friend,” and seating her diagonally with the corner of the table pointed toward her.


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