DEAR MISS MANNERS: I wish to create a salon during the time when I will be at home convalescing from a broken hip. I would like to invite my friends to drop by during the hours of 3 to 5 in the afternoon and 7 to 9 in the evening.
I will have tea, wine and light refreshments set out for my guests to help themselves, and I will preside from my couch over lively conversation and music (recognizing that I can never reproduce the famous salons held in Paris a century ago).
How do I word the invitation to such an ongoing event? It will be sent by email. I could set it in a few straightforward sentences to resemble an engraved card, as I believe they did in those days, or I could adapt an online greeting card to make it more colorful.
Is there anything else I should be sure to provide, to make it authentic and fun? I hope to host memorable events that Miss Manners herself would enjoy attending, if she could.
GENTLE READER: Ah, yes, the Salon Fantasy. Nearly everyone who has read French literature has it. But perhaps when public health is sufficiently under control as to permit safe gatherings of guests unknown to one another, some socially starved people may be ready for it.
Miss Manners doubts that this will be in time for your convalescence, when you will do better simply by telling well-wishers that you would love some company, and that all afternoons are possible.
When you and social conditions have recovered, you might try. But don’t call it a salon until it has been successful for some time, and you can do so laughingly. To do so at the start will frighten people who doubt their ability to maintain a high level of clever conversation, as well as people who want to avoid being subjected to those who think they can.
Rather, call it an open house, and invite those who attend the first to return the following week. If they do, you can suggest that they next bring along friends who might enjoy this sort of gathering.
If a core group begins attending every week, you can, after a full season, think of yourself as Madame de Stael – as long as you don’t say that aloud.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When going out to lunch, someone in the group will always engage in a long conversation with the server while the rest of us sit and wait to order.
Is this something new? This has happened at several lunches, and I don’t know the proper way to handle it. Should we excuse ourselves while the conversation is happening, and hope it is over when we return?
GENTLE READER: If you are impatient, the waitress probably is, too. While she wants to appear agreeable, and may be genuinely friendly, she has work to do. So saying “Why don’t we order now?” would even be a help.
As for its being new, there has been an increase, in recent years, of people grilling the waitstaff about ingredients. Perhaps, also, the strain on service people may have awakened a desire to appear sympathetic.
In any event, you may politely suggest, “Why don’t we order first?”
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.