Today I was reading my November issue of Real Simple Magazine. While I most often read magazines from back to front (some kinesthetic thing?) this time I began in the front. I got to the section entitled "Life Lessons" -- Modern Manners written by Julie Rottenberg. OK. Life lessons. This is very important stuff. With the holidays approaching, and entertaining on everyone's mind, the etiquette dilemma of the month is: How long should you wait for latecomers before you go ahead and eat? The article starts out interestingly enough posing the question, hearing a bit about the author's childhood and how she overcame it. Finally we get to what Ms. Rottenberg advises is appropriate. "...a grace period is assumed. After that, feed the prompt, hungry guests. By that point, it's the latecomers who are rude, and the onus is on them to be apologetic, not you." She continues with her advice. "That's not to say you need to unduly punish these people. I beg you to resist the temptation to guilt-trip." In fact she advocates greeting your tardy friends with open arms, throwing in "Oh, we just sat down! no matter what course you're on when they knock on the door."
How can this possibly be considered good etiquette?! Judging your friends, and then lying to them about how you feel? It is no wonder to me that people have a harder and harder time getting along with each other. This is exactly how resentments build up over time. One person decides that their friend behaved badly. They don't mention it (because 'etiquette' says not to). Somehow they expect their friend to just intuit how they feel and acknowledge the bad behavior (with an apology or remorse, or a viable excuse). When this doesn't happen, they add more blame and judgments on the friend's shoulders and continue to keep it all hush, hush. (We don't like to be perceived as judgmental after all!)
I think there is a better solution. How about instead of judging and lying, we try talking and listening. Indeed there is a way to instantly make connection with the tardy guest when they arrive. My suggestion is to reveal to your friends how you feel, (you might be hurt, nervous or anxious) and what your concern is (cold dinner, their safety, the party not dragging on too late), sans judgment of their actions. And, ask them to do the same, if they are willing. You may just discover something very interesting about your friend, that of course etiquette advises them not to. Maybe they get nervous when in a group of people, or they didn't have enough money to buy a hostess gift and they were scrambling for an hour trying to find something that showed their appreciation for your invitation. Please everyone, talk with your friends! Reveal not your judgments, but your feelings. This will promote connection, communication and understanding. Isn't that why we have friends and invite them over to dinner?