Four couples in our neighbourhood have gotten together a few times over the years for dinner. One of the couples has been e-mailing around to try to find a date when we can all make it to their home. I turned down the first three and even told them to go ahead without us, but they keep offering new dates. The problem is we simply do not want to go. The hostess drinks too much, which makes her very loud and insulting, especially to her husband. How do you decline an invitation when you would rather not go? Making up an excuse is not going to work this time.
Have you considered moving? Claiming leprosy? Faking your own deaths? As you've likely gathered by now, there's really no way get out of dinner with the Queen of the Harpies without looking at least a little bit bad. Harm reduction is the best you can hope for at this point. So how about accepting? Just pick a date, any date, doesn't matter if you can make it. Then cancel - apologetically, of course - on the morning of. If they invite you another time, accept and then cancel again. They'll either get the message (although that sounds unlikely) or you can repeat until they do. You'll be considered neighbourhood deadbeats, of course, but that isn't such a bad fate. It beats being the couple who said, "I don't want to come to your house for dinner because you're a nasty drunk."
Chris Nuttall-Smith is a food writer and restaurant columnist. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.