DEAR MISS MANNERS

Some married friends who live with another couple have invited my partner and me to their house for a party - but with certain conditions.

The phone message I received instructed us to "bring your own everything," not to bring red wine as it might stain the carpet, not to bring any friends because it was a select gathering, and to bring $5 each to help pay for the carpets to be cleaned.I realize that we are in a recession, Miss Manners, but do you think this is an appropriate way to entertain? The hosts both have excellent jobs in television and market research, while many of their friends are at school or between jobs. I might add that they are moving in two months and are probably required to clean the carpets before they move from their rented town house.

GENTLE READER - How did you manage to classify this event as entertainment? You have been assigned to bring in some household money and to provide your own lunch pail during the task.

And if that isn't entertaining enough, you have also been scolded for carelessness that you have not yet had a chance to commit.

You need not have bothered to mention the taskmasters' jobs in order to convince Miss Manners of their vulgarity. Graciousness and financial resources have nothing to do with one another. Hospitality consists of generously sharing what one has, however humble it may be, not of exploiting others in however grand a setting.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - I am devastated. Five months ago my husband, a respected corporate vice president, abandoned me and our beautiful 7-year-old daughter. The story is old: He ran off with his childhood sweetheart after meeting her once again at their 30th high-school reunion.

Words cannot come close to describing the trauma my daughter and I continue to go through. Ours was an ideal family life until the husband and father we love slid from social drinking to functional alcoholism. Counseling now shows me that I am a co-dependent, but that with hard work I can pick myself up and become healthy again. Our daughter, too, is receiving professional help.

Stability and security for my daughter are my prime concern. I have hopes of remaining in our family home until we are ready to leave. I have been holding my head up while living in a goldfish bowl, as our community has a population of less than 2,000.

Although my husband's actions are no reason for me to be ashamed, old habits die hard. The family "secret" was kept so well by all of us.

My husband and - as he puts it to me - his "sophisticated lady" have been living in a neighboring town since the day he left. He has made it ruthlessly clear that he wants to live with her in our family home, and send me and our daughter off to pasture somewhere. As part of his pressure tactics, they have now decided to move to some property we jointly own, about a mile down the road.

I have retained an excellent attorney, have a good support system of family and friends, and am trying to put faith in a power greater than myself. My sense of humor helps, although it surfaces less often than I would like.

How do I answer the boors who ask me, "How can you stay here?" implying that I should be so ashamed that I would leave with my tail between my legs. And what is the proper way to act when I meet the "sophisticated lady" (as I no doubt will) in our one and only grocery store or on the street?

My self-esteem is at a low point right row.

GENTLE READER - On the contrary. Miss Manners considers there to be no higher sign of laudable self-respect than the determination to behave well in adversity. (You will forgive her if she eschews the term "self-esteem," since it is now often used for a sort of self-congratulatory cockiness unrelated to esteem-producing achievements or virtues.)

Your legal and psychological problems being in the hands of people in those fields, Miss Manners will confine herself to the etiquette aspects of the situation.

The key thing to remember here is that your dignity is in your own hands. If your husband and his so-called lady behave in an undignified manner, or if your neighbors do, by making unpleasant remarks, the rudeness is theirs, not yours.

The way to deflect their barbs is not to return them but to refuse to accept them. Miss Manners does not lightly recommend etiquette's extreme weapon of cutting people dead, but this couple seems to qualify for that measure. If you meet them, simply walk away.

A lesser measure will do for boorish busybodies. You can recognize them without recognizing their intrusions, which should be met with calm silence.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.