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Thread: On inviting someone to a holiday meal

  1. #1
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    On inviting someone to a holiday meal

    I'm sure many will disagree, but here's an unsolicited opinion:

    IMO, if you know someone you think might be alone with nowhere to go on a holiday, and you would like to have them join your family/group, why not just say, "I don't know if you have plans for X, but we'd love to have you join us" rather than, "What are you doing for X?". People can feel embarassed saying, "I'm not doing anything" or they can feel they're creating an awkward situation - like you'll now have to extend an invitation.

    I've always been conscious of how these questions can play out (ugh, once left both me and the guy I was dating --who'd asked me what my plans were, when he couldn't invite me to join him and his family-- embarrassed). My mother always told me I was way too sensitive about these things. Since she's not here to say it, I'll let YOU .
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  2. #2
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    What's almost worse is to be asked "What are you doing for T-Day?", answer "Nothing, I'll be alone." "Oh." And then the conversation ends.

    Often happens to me. And yep, I'll be spending T-day doing homework and probably eating my ghetto spaghetti, all because I have to work the next day. That's life!
    Erin

    "Eating peanut butter is a sacred act, not to be defiled by pork or its substitutes."

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  3. #3
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    Canice, I think the way you've phrased the invitation is far superior to the more common awkward question. And I don't think you're being too sensitive. You're probably more sincere in your conversations than many people. The way you've proposed to ask is an example of excellent communication skills! You've made it clear up front what your intention is, while leaving them an "out."

    A lot of people ask the question, "What are you doing for X ?" because they're trying to make small talk rather than because they really care. Similar to talking about the weather or saying, "Howareyoudidyouhaveagoodweekend?" Then you end up with a situation like Erin described, where they feel uncomfortable to hear you'll be alone, and they drift away.
    Sometimes if I'm going to be alone and someone asks me, I just say, "Oh, I don't know." Technically it's true, I don't know for sure what I'll be doing.

  4. #4
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    FWIW, I don't ever like to be asked what I'm doing on a certain date or occasion. I would rather know what the invitation is going to be before I leave myself open for it. And in a situation like you are talking about, it would certainly be more tactful to follow your suggestion.
    Margaret

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    "What are you doing for X?"

    This sentence reminds me of a former friend I used to have who instead of just asking me directly something like "Could you watch my child on Friday while I do X", would always "feel me out" by asking me what I was doing on Friday. It was like she was trying to corner me but first establishing that I was not otherwise occupied and then she would ask me the favor--thereby insuring that I had no polite way of saying no to her. Really, really, irritated me to no end.

    As Jazz said, I would rather know what the invitation or request is first, before I tell a person what I am doing...so in the case of my former friend, I learned to be very evasive whenever she asked me what I was doing...

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    "I don't know if you have plans for X, but we'd love to have you join us" rather than, "What are you doing for X?". .
    Perfectly stated.

    Quote Originally Posted by ErinM View Post
    Often happens to me. And yep, I'll be spending T-day doing homework and probably eating my ghetto spaghetti, all because I have to work the next day. That's life!
    I wish that we lived closer - I'd love to have your company on Thanksgiving.
    Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

  7. #7
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    Canice, your way is a WAY better way to ask! And no, you're not being too sensitive. I think most people just don't think it through...
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

  8. #8
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    Canice, you are amazing on many levels.
    You are not overly sensitive, you are such an elevated person.
    I love how you phrase it.
    ....and yes, in my single days, I had the same thing.
    Even now that I am married, some folks make it seem that if you only have two people dining together, you're missing the point.
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  9. #9
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    OTOH, it is a very common thing to ask "What are your plans for Thanksgiving?" or "Are you doing anything special for Christmas?" or any variation of them for the various holidays. People like to share their plans to host parties or see family or travel, and they like to hear what others are doing as well. It IS a form of small talk, and I hear it at work all the time as the day in question moves closer.

    I think it is perfectly fine to say something like "Well, I have a big paper to write and I'm working the day after, so I WON'T be cooking turkey!" or some other small talk kind of reply. If an invitation is coming, it still will, and if not, the small talk has just moved along.
    kathyb


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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chefzhat View Post
    Perfectly stated.



    I wish that we lived closer - I'd love to have your company on Thanksgiving.

    Aw, thanks, Debie! The other thing I always find hilarious about Thanksgiving is my mom, who says, EVERY YEAR without fail, that I "am welcome to come home and eat the side dishes" all because I'm a vegetarian. Gee, thanks, Mom! How kind of you to offer!
    Erin

    "Eating peanut butter is a sacred act, not to be defiled by pork or its substitutes."

    -generic


    New favorite bumper sticker: "Go Green. Recycle Yourself. Become an Organ and Tissue Donor."

  11. #11
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    You'd both be welcome here too. I'd love to talk food and California with Canice and food and medicine with Erin -- especially if DS is now thinking in that direction (medicine, but not sure).

    I agree with you Canice, but sometimes folks want to share plans and don't stop to think that everyone may not be with their familes and friends or may have to work. I've been there too -- on both counts, but not everyone has.

    I'm sorry for the awkward moments, but I hope you both find a way to have a very much deserved and enjoyable celebration in your own way. And if you have a way to Texas, let me know. My mom always taught me the more the merrier!

    Of course, I can't change my imperfect family -- you'd get the warts and all, so to speak.

  12. #12
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    Canice is exactly right -- and not just involving holidays. It's a completely different scenario if "What are you doing for Thanksgiving/Festivus/Friday night" is small talk ... but if your purpose in asking is to invite someone to a gathering (or ask a favor), then that's the wrong approach. The proper way to extend an invitation is to just go ahead and extend it. That way the invitee is free to accept or decline, and neither party is left feeling awkward. The other scenario that can play out is that the person may not WANT to accept the offer, for whatever reason, without having to justify it.
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  13. #13
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    I agree with Kathy that asking others what they are doing for a holiday is a form of small talk -- at least in my neck of the woods. I must say, however, that your thread gives me pause about the impact of this question on the folks who do not have plans.

    If a real invitation is intended, your phrasing is perfect and I will use it in the future.

    Kay

  14. #14
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    I think your way is, as Ana says, more "elevated." But I am sure I am guilty of issuing the other kind of invitation. It pays to be more thoughtful of other people's plans and preferences, but an invitation in good faith is just that. The other person might not be offering it in the most thoughtful way, but that doesn't mean it isn't a heartfelt invitation. We've often hosted a Thanksgiving potluck where we make the turkey, stuffing and dessert and people bring their favorite side dishes. I honestly don't recall how I invited people but everyone seemed to have a good time.
    For you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once.

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  15. #15
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    I agree that it is all in the way you ask. Just the other day some acquaintances and I were chatting about our Tday plans. One mentioned that they planned to go away but now were not able to do so. I quickly invited them to join us. Their DD and my DD are best friends but as families we don't really socialize together. She said thanks and would have to think about it.

    I was quite serious about the invite (I love lots of people for Tday) and so I made sure to call the next day to reiterate the invitation. I thought she may have assumed I was just being nice but not really serious. I wanted to make sure she knew I was.

    Happily, they are coming and I went from 12 for dinner to 19! Can't Wait!!

    - robin

  16. #16
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    The phrasing does mean everthing, that is for sure. I do agree some people are just making small talk and some people just maybe do not know better. Off topic but I have people ask me all the time what is wrong w/ me since I do not have kids!! Rude and none of their business!

    This thread reminded me of when my sister lived in town. She is a college professor and we always had these huge thanksgiving's at my parents. It was really fun b/c my sister would invite all these people from her college to come over. Many were kids that couldn't make it home for the holidays but some were professors too. It was really fun to meet so many new people too!

  17. #17
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    I completely agree with Canice...it is, to me, the most direct and candid approach.

    I have a very good friend who always asks what I'm doing before disclosing what her idea for my time would be, and I've learned to respond with, "Why do you ask?"

    The old "Answer a question with a question" still gets me where I want to be...conversationally.
    Sonja in Southern Maryland

    All kids are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others. -Michael Carr

  18. #18
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    I agree, best way to ask. Period. If you issue the inviation " what are you doing on T-Day"? and their answer is "I have no plans" and you quickly invite them.....many people, myself included, would immediately assume that they are getting the pity invite. If you invite, right up front, there can't possibly be that confusion.

    Kristi
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  19. #19
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    Kristi (and others of course) that was really my point: People can feel self-conscious saying "nothing" or don't want to feel they're putting you on the spot, or may not actually *want* to participate.
    As stated in the subject line and my premise, I'm talking about issuing invitations, not saying it's terrible to make small talk about holiday plans. If there's an old widow at the end of the lane whose kids never visit and friends have all died, it might be gentler to just issue the invitation was my thought.

    Oh, and I should say I'm not here to tell everyone what to do . It was sort of a musing following something I read about the holiday season, that's all.
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  20. #20
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    Canice

    I will be alone, my DS who is 17 and a box boy at a grocery store has to work (thanksgiving has always been MY holiday with him :mad and DH who is an air traffic controller has to work because for SOME reason people have to fly from 11 - 9 on TK day...where the hell they are going is a mystery.

    Can I come to your house???? I could go to moms house but she is a SANDRA LEE no thanks!

    I think your invitation is very classy and if I lived closer to you I would appreciate that kind of invitation. Seriously I think that is a wonderful. It just says hey you are invited and welcome and not well I feel bad for you because you have nothing else to do.

    I will be having Thanksgiving Brunch in order to have it with hubby, but I forsee some turkey nachos, turkey this and that (whatever my imagination can come up with) ALL DAY LONG!!
    Stay-at-home mom scratch cooking for a child with a severe peanut and mustard allergy.

  21. #21
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    Why, you are more than welcome here, Jalapeño! (Of course, you'd have to fly up, which would answer your above question ) No Sandra Lee cooking in my kitchen, but I do darned love creamed pearl onions, which I think no one else eats.

    I'm glad your hubby is keeping the skies safe on Thanksgiving, but I have to be a crabby old woman and say that I do *not* appreciate grocery stores being open all day. I know, I know...emergencies come up, you forgot the marshmallows for the yams, etc. But I somehow liked the idea that TG was a big enough holiday that the grocery stores were closed. Or split the difference: open til noon? Sorry, totally OT.

    Yum, how 'bout making a turkey pot pie for dinner? I've never done it, but I'm thinking just toss a sheet of puff pastry over top of a stew and call it "pie" .
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  22. #22
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    I really like the way Canice phrased it. Especially because many times I don't want to accept that Thanksgiving invitation.

    Some people are ok with doing nothing. I don't always like to schlepp somewhere or cook anything and have folks over. Sometimes it is nice to just wake up, walk the dogs, hang out, drink champagne and watch movies. And the way Canice phrases it, I truly get to accept if that is what I want to do without feeling pressured into accepting. Or I can decline, without feeling awkward.
    Last edited by armel; 11-23-2008 at 10:22 AM.
    Theresa & Gigi & Anisette & Enchante & Le Beau Ouiseaux Rouge

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    I have to be a crabby old woman and say that I do *not* appreciate grocery stores being open all day.
    This is so those of us who are alone on the holiday can do a little grocery shopping in peace.

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