My husband and I just moved to a new city. A nice couple invited us to dinner and we accepted.
A few days after the invitation, our hostess asked me if my husband and I played tennis, and
would we like to play tennis as part of the dinner engagement. I answered that we do not play tennis.
End of story, right? No! A few days after that, our hostess emailed me to ask whether we would
like to play either tennis or soccer before or after dinner.
First of all, how weird is it to play sports at a dinner? Second of all, we don't play tennis (lack of
ability) or soccer (previous injury), but I don't want to explain all of that to the hostess. Third of
all, I don't want to be rude or a party pooper when these people are extending a hand of
friendship, but I don't want to play soccer or tennis before or after dinner.
What should I do?
You are in this awkward situation for two reasons. One, because the original invitation was
incomplete. Two, because your hostess is ignoring your clear disinclination to play sports.
But never fear! You can safely decline to play sports before or after dinner because it was not
part of the original invitation that you accepted. And your hostess cannot obligate you to change
your mind about playing sports simply by asking repeatedly or rephrasing the question.
But, as you said, you want to grasp the extended hand of friendship. Therefore, the trick is to
decline the sports with tact, but then state how excited you are for the dinner.
You might respond: "I'm afraid we won't be able to play soccer or tennis on Saturday. We're
excited to see you at dinner, though. Is six still a good time? See you then!"
Do not explain why you don't want to play sports. If you do, you will be inviting your hostess to
"solve" whatever obstacle you present. So just say that you can't.
This is a cautionary tale for hostesses: make the terms of your invitation clear when you invite
someone to do something. If your evening is based on a sports activity or a particular game or a
particular show, make that part of your invitation so your prospective guest can make an
educated response to your invitation.
Because once you issue an invitation, you are obligated to follow through unless disaster strikes.
Actual illness, for example, warrants a cancellation. But you don't get to cancel because you
really wanted to play tennis but your guests don't play, or because you haven't prepared your
Sunday School lesson yet, or because only one of the four people you invited is coming. And
especially not because someone else invited you to do something better.
The same rule applies to guests. Once you have committed to attend an event, you must go
unless you are actually sick. And not "I don't feel like it" sick. Really sick.
Finally, it is not weird to mix dinner and sports if that is what you like to do. I have a sister who
would love this kind of invitation.
you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life?
Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to
answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!
Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her
adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She
graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from
Duke University with a law degree.
She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap
dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in
Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.
Cyndie serves as first counselor in her ward Relief Society organization.