Dear Helena,

My boyfriend and I had a couple of friends over to make pizza and watch a movie. Around 11, the first friend left. Unfortunately, the other one seemed glued to his chair. My boyfriend and I were exhausted. We yawned and exclaimed how late it was. We straightened up the living room. My boyfriend even brushed his teeth. My friend ended up staying two more hours. If this happens again, how should we signal that it’s time for guests to depart —short of changing into our pajamas? -Weary Hostess

Dear Weary Hostess,

Serving coffee is a classic method of getting guests on the road. But, says Susan Gage, who runs a successful Washington catering company, “this can backfire by reenergizing everybody.”

I recommend the Guest Ejection Strategy. It proceeds in escalating stages.

Stage 1: Verbal Hints —Use the phrase “Before you go,” followed by a question. It’s best if your question flatters. “Before you go, what is the name of your blog?”

Stage 2: The Unwelcoming Environment —Snuff out candles. Turn off music. Switch on overhead lights.

Stage 3: Tupperware Distribution —Rise meaningfully from your seat and say, “Let me pack up some of that osso bucco for you to take home.”

Still not leaving?

Stage 4: The Excuse —”I’m sorry, I had a great time, but I need to go to bed because I have an early morning yoga class.”

Stage 5: Jammie time —Only don’t slip on your silk peignoir. Your guest may think that while the dinner is over, the fun is just about to begin.

Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.

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