Q. What is the etiquette regarding asking to drink the wine you have brought to a dinner party? The man I am dating insisted on having ‘his’ wine when our host came round the table with a newly opened bottle. Being shortsighted, our host opened the wrong second bottle but my date persisted until he got the bottle he had brought. He then drank one glass, leaving our host with nearly three full bottles of red. My date says that, as he is a wine lover, this behaviour was perfectly acceptable.
— B.R., London NW3
A. Your date was wrong. Gifts are gifts and the giver has no reason to have expectation of enjoyment. Good wine is obviously enjoyable, but to bore on about it is missing the point of hospitality. He should have accepted what he was given with good grace.
Q. When we got engaged last August, a very old friend of mine was among the first to congratulate us and to say he and his wife would immediately book a hotel in Florence, where the wedding is taking place. Subsequently he promised to come to my stag but cried off, claiming he had to give the address at the funeral of a much-loved huntsman the next day. I have since found out that he did not give the address but was merely one of 600 mourners. Now he has written to say that he and his wife are not coming to the wedding as their nine-year-old daughter has an exam. This is only one of many examples of chronic flakiness we have experienced while organising our wedding, but it is the most annoying. Mary, is it legitimate to punish this friend somehow? And if so, how?
— M.B., Stanton St Bernard, Wilts
A. Flakiness is a curse of the modern age and caused in large part by the condition ‘Browser brain’, which stunts the sufferer’s capacity to plan ahead. In the rush of euphoria he will have received by accepting instantly, your friend will not have thought things through. Only when the time was almost upon him would he have made the time to consider whether practical or financial considerations would actually preclude his attendance. You need not punish him as his conscience will do the punishing for him.
Q. Friends were arriving for supper at the same time as the man who lives on the same landing was going into his own flat, so I invited him in for a drink. He was still there when it was time to sit down and, although my flatmate and I like him, he would have been the wrong vibe at the table. He did eventually go when the food was almost spoiled, but how could we have tactfully persuaded him to go earlier?
—G.C., London W11
A. You could have gushed, ‘I can’t bear that we’ve got to sit down now and there’s no room for you. Can you come back tomorrow night/one day next week for supper?’ Having extracted a yes, you would have shown him to the door.
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