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Should I disinvite my pals to a New Year's Eve party?

The question

Hubby and I have become close friends with a couple, Amber and Bill. They're hosting a small New Year's Eve get-together and told me I could invite anyone I wanted. We recently introduced them to some other dear friends of ours, Clare and Dan. The six of us have now spent several Saturday evenings socializing. A couple of weeks ago, Clare and Dan mentioned they'd love to spend New Year's with us, and I said, "Great, Amber and Bill are having a party. Wouldn't that be fun if you two came?" A more socially astute person might have double-checked with the hosts, but the combination of "invite whomever you want" and "we really like your friends" made me think I was in the clear. The following day, Amber told my husband that she wouldn't feel comfortable if Clare and Dan were at the party. I'm having trouble foreseeing a future that doesn't involve hurt feelings and awkwardness.

The answer

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Socializing in general is a never-ending festival of "hurt feelings and awkwardness." Why should New Year's Eve be any different?

Listen to me. What have I become?

In my twenties and thirties, I loved to mix and mingle. I turned nothing down but my collar. I'd go to the opening of a phone booth, an outhouse, an elevator. (Not hyperbole: I went to the opening of an elevator once, in an upscale shopping mall. Free wine, good snacks, lots of swish society babes - it was fun!) These days, though, in the words of Henry de Montherlant, I prefer to "retire on the shady side of 40 with a few choice friends."

And parties sometimes seem like gratuitous, halitotic congregations of bores and stiffs, underminers and the "overrefreshed." The other night, at a friend's house, I thought I was having a pleasant enough conversation with a sabre-toothed divorcee (genus smilodon fatalis), until I realized her agenda was to zing and shiv me at every opportunity and pepper me with "questionsults". "Does Pam" - my wife - "dye her hair?" "Are you feeling thin, Dave?" To Pam, re: a tiny, army-issue cross I wear around my neck, "Really? Jewellery on a man?"

On and on it went. Me wondering: "Why do I subject myself to this? I could be sitting at home, in front of the fire, with a bourbon and a good book."

Anyway, that's my problem. On to yours. If I were you, I would sit down and have a chat with Amber over, say, a glass of chardonnay (or two), and gently probe to see if you can find the source of her discomfort vis-à-vis your friends. Was there some intercouple friction or frisson or flirtation? Does she feel threatened or undermined?

If it's nothing too dire, perhaps you can find a way to broker peace between the two parties. (I know there's not a lot of time left. But it's not too late yet, I hope. In even the most long-standing of feuds, peace is sometimes only a cup of tea, a frank discussion and a hug away.) If it's something more serious - if, say, Clare stole a diamond necklace from Amber's dresser, or Dan got drunk and defecated in their cat's litter box - well, then, that's a little more ticklish, obviously.

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Then maybe you can diplomatically suggest that your friends Clare and Dan make alternate plans.

But only if the offence is genuinely scandalous, scurrilous, and/or felonious in nature. Otherwise, you should do everything you can to avoid the "disinvite."

The disinvite - to tell someone "I know I invited you to this party, but now you aren't allowed to come" - is, in my view, the most heinous, grievous and egregious social misstep there is.

People never forget being disinvited from something. I have two mutual friends - let's call one "Betty" and the other "Frieda." About 20 years ago, Betty invited Frieda to a barbecue, then called up later and disinvited her for some footling reason.

Frieda still bitterly refers to that incident to this day. Her brow darkens when she mentions it. It's like it happened yesterday, as far as she's concerned. And although they remain on speaking terms, it's coloured their friendship ever since.

True, in your case, Clare and Dan were invited by proxy. But Amber did say a) "invite whomever you want" and b) "I like your friends." She has to live with the consequences of those statements, even if it means a soupçon of "discomfort" on her part.

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Unfortunately, it may be up to you to point this out, and even urge her to suck it up and endure Clare and Dan's company for what is after all only a single evening, and one with plenty of lubricants on hand to take the edge off her "discomfort."

If, despite everything, she has the stones/effrontery to disinvite your friends, I would seriously consider boycotting the party out of solidarity.

But let's hope that's moot. She'll suck it up, stay mum, you'll all go to the party, have a good time, and everyone will be as chill and bubbly as champagne in a frosted glass. You'll pop some corks, and toast to new friends and a friction-free new year.

Clink! I'd drink to that. I might even leave the house for it.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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