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In Good Taste: 'Entertaining' Neighbors

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The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566

Dear Etta Kate: Now that the season of outdoor parties is upon us, I need your help. I like to host cookouts at my place. It can be hard to contain the noise -- not to mention the aromas -- from all the activity. My neighbor Heidi lives next door. A friend told me I must invite Heidi to my next cookout. Is that true? What are my obligations to my neighbors? I want to enjoy my summer. Sincerely, Cookie

Dear Etta Kate: My neighbor Cookie entertains often. In summer, her parties get loud because she grills outdoors for a crowd. I don't know her well, but she invited me to a party she is hosting this weekend. I don't like the heat and prefer to spend summer indoors. Am I obliged to attend? Sincerely, Heidi

Dear Neighbors: First, I congratulate you both on having taken the first steps to being neighborly – whether because of or in spite of your different views about parties. Cookie courteously invited Heidi to an event that might impact her – whether from noise, grill smoke and smells, or a street full of poorly parked cars. Heidi senses it would be rude to ignore Cookie’s invitation.

So, how to show consideration for others, but still maintain one’s capacity to enjoy life on her own terms?

Heidi should warmly accept and attend for as long as she can manage. It is a wonderful opportunity to get to know her neighbor and lay the groundwork for a long and mutually beneficial relationship. Once Heidi returns to her hideaway, she can find respite with A/C, calamine lotion and ear plugs. Cookie may cook to her heart’s content and should tone the noise levels down at bedtime (normally ten p.m. weeknights and midnight on weekends). What is key here is respect for others – including a balance between quiet versus the right to party.

Etta Kate is the nom de plume of a business consultant who maintains anonymity to protect her clients’ privacy. If you have a question about food and dining etiquette, Etta Kate will be happy to help. You can post your messages in the comments section of this page.