Ask The Salty Waitress: How Do I Tell A Friend To Keep Their Kids Away From My Party?

Dear Salty: I don't throw a ton of parties, but this year, in honor of my new condo, I decided to bite the bullet and throw a nice, grownup holiday cocktail party, with 20 or so of my friends. Nevertheless, I got a text from a friend who enthused, "Kids and I can't wait to join you! See you Saturday!"

This friend is a divorced person who, I guess, has custody of his kids on Saturday. It was a rough breakup, and I empathize with his current situation. But I really, really don't want his kids there.

My place is not kid-proofed at all. And his are not of the age where you can just stick them in the corner with Fortnite: They're 4 and 2, which means I suspect they'll be sticking their grubby fingers into the dip and spilling soda. That sounds terrible, and I honestly like his kids just fine, but I'm nervous enough about this party without having to worry about rugrats running around. How do I tell him that I really don't want his children at my fancy grownup cocktail party without losing him as a friend? 

Signed, Really Not A Monster

Dear Really Not A Monster:

Ah, the holiday party season, where the opportunities to offend and annoy people socially are endless. From an outsider's perspective (mine), that text from your friend was a clear cry for help. This is the call of a drowning man desperate for adult social interaction but who is also feeling too guilty/poor to ditch his kids with a high-priced sitter. He wants to kill two birds with one stone, but unfortunately, one of those birds happens to be your party.

I like kids too—I am my nieces and nephews' all-time favorite Auntie Salty. But I'm with you, I don't want them gunking up my fancy digs when I'm having only grownup friends over. Plus, it's downright dangerous for them, what with the flaming fondue pots and frequently popping champagne corks and me galluping perilously along in high heels.

Your friend knows what a big ask this is—that's why he sent the text. Showing up on your doorstep with kids in tow would be too cruel. By giving you a heads-up, he's offering you a chance to reject his children, and you must take it. This may be one of those times where texting is insufficient and could be misinterpreted, so you may want to put on your big-person pants and give your friend a phone call. (In 2018! Shocking!) Or, if you feel the need to ease into it, have a coffee or beer as soon as possible to say, "Look, you know I love little Damien and Regan, but I was really planning on my party to be adults-only."

When your friend winces from the pain, quickly offer him some options: Do you know anyone who would be willing to babysit, or anyone with college-aged kids home from school looking to pick up some extra cash? Failing that, could you spend a different Saturday night with your friend and his kids? Maybe at the zoo, or a museum, followed by a casual family-friendly dinner place, like this diner I know. If you are a true hero among friends, you could even offer to watch the kids yourself sometime. But you shouldn't feel guilted or railroaded into allowing guests at your party that you don't want, no matter how cute they are.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: