Q: I was invited recently to a birthday party at a friend’s house. When I got there, I found out everything was outside for the entire late afternoon and evening party. Tables and chairs were all around, but there were no umbrellas and no shade. I take a medication which tells me not to be in the sun for long periods of time. I went inside after about 30 minutes to sit in the kitchen and cool off a bit.
An older family member of the birthday person came in to get something from the refrigerator and, in a rude tone, asked me what I was doing there. Before I could answer, she told me I had to go outside because no one was allowed inside. I went back outside for a few minutes and decided to leave because I was not feeling well. The birthday person was talking to a group of people on the other side of the yard, and I didn’t want to wait to say good-bye or make a big deal out of it, so I went around the house, got in my car and left.
A couple of days later, my friend called upset with me because I “spent no time at my party and didn’t even say good-bye when I left.” I told her about my medication side effects and she told me I should have gone inside for a while. I mentioned what happened when I went inside and she immediately questioned me as to who it was, what did she look like, etc. I didn’t want to talk about it so I asked her to forget about it. She kept pressuring me and I finally said, I had to go, and hung up. In retrospect, I guess it was not proper for me to tell her about the kitchen issue? Next time I am invited to a party in the summer at someone’s home, can I ask if it is going to be outdoors?
A: Yes, rather than tell your friend, or any hostess, about a rude family member’s actions, it is more appropriate to briefly explain you suddenly became ill and felt you needed to go home. Apologize for not being able to say goodbye and then change the subject. By the way, your friend was rude to question and pressure you about the kitchen episode in the first place. Instead, she should have apologized to you for what happened.
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As to whether it is proper or not to ask a hostess if a summer party is going to be indoors or out: Yes, certainly you can ask that question. For example, “So that I know how to dress, is the party going to be inside or outside?” If the answer is “outside,” you then have the option of explaining you are taking a medication which causes side effects if you are in the sun or heat too long. Then: “I would be delighted to come, but please don’t feel I am rude if I cannot stay very long.”
Q: If you receive an invitation to a pool party” with “suggested attire: swim suits,” should you regret if you are not willing to wear a swim suit?
A: No, you need not regret. “Suggested” means exactly that, suggested, not mandatory. If you do not intend to swim and would feel more comfortable wearing a sundress, maxi dress, halter dress, shorts and a top or slacks and a top, it is your choice.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.