Salad Dressing Don’t

Dear Annabel, 

 
I’m a longtime reader, first time writer. 
 
My partner Karl and I have two children (he’s 8, she’s 4). We have straight-couple friends with similarly-aged kids and we’ve all gotten along quite well… until recently.  
 
Something happened last weekend and we can’t for the life of us decide if this is some straight weirdness or just plain bad manners. Karl thinks it’s just rude, but I’m not so sure. So we’re asking you to be our Solomon. 
 
We had our friends and their kids over for a long Sunday afternoon playdate, and we had a ball. We asked them to bring a salad, and Cici (the mom/wife) brought a nice green salad and a bottle of Newman’s Own Dressing, which Karl mentioned was his favorite as he unwrapped the salad.  
 
Background: Karl and I opened two bottles of wine; later, Jim (the dad/husband) and I went to Bristol Farms where I bought all sorts of yummy food that we cooked and put away after. The kids played in our pool for hours then had baths and watched cartoons. 
 
At the end of the evening, Cici went to get her salad bowl and tongs. Then, as they walked out the door Karl noticed she had opened the refrigerator door and taken her salad dressing! She was sneaky about it, too. She didn’t ask or mention it, just put it in the bottom of the bowl and carried it out.
 
We were and remain nonplussed. Is there any culture where it’s OK to do this? Talking it over once the kids were asleep, Karl observed that we’re a bit better off than our friends. Should that count in their favor?
 
Please sort this out for us. 
 
Yours faithfully, 
Horrified in Los Angeles
Dear Horrified,
You’re right, this is dreadfully tacky.
When you bring someone a hostess gift, it’s perfectly fine to retrieve your salad bowl or silver tray, etc., but whatever you’ve contributed to the party is no longer yours.
Reasonably well-mannered people (of every possible tax bracket and sexual orientation) are shivering as they read this.
I suspect Cici has no idea this was a faux pas. If you enjoy their company and their family is a good match for yours in terms of playdates, you might have to accept that they’re a little rough around the edges.
However, if you think it speaks to larger issues (i.e. that Cici really is sneaky or that they’re just not warm, generous people), you may want to reevaluate the friendship.
One gentle caveat: it’s not exactly good manners to keep track of every glass of wine consumed or burger grilled, either. If you’re hosting, you’re hosting and that’s that.
Graciously yours,
ANNABEL MANNERS
Got an etiquette question? Send it to annabel@annabelmanners.com
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