30 Comments

  1. hostess?

    A friend of mine used to live in town and has now moved across the country. Because of her job she has the oppertunity to travel to this area rather frequently. She stayed with me for about a week about a month ago. I generally love this friend but boy I was so so glad to have her gone. Small thing like leaving the fridge door open and being a late sleeper when i like to get up and put on some music, making a huge mess of the guest room, the guest bathroom, the hallway between the two ect. She is going to be back in town this month again for a week. I’m swamped under with family work, social obligations that week and really do not want to give up my privacy. I like her but a week at a time every month or six weeks is more guest then I really want. How do I communicate that wow it would be lovely to hang out and I like you as a friend but really this is a smidge too much and I really do not want you staying at my house.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      “I’m sorry I won’t be able to have you stay with me this time. I’m going to be swamped with family work and social obligations that week. I would love to have dinner with you while you’re in town though!”

      • Vanna Keiler

        I agree completely with Winifred Rosenburg’s response above, although I appreciate the discussion following which helped me to make that decision. It seems the only polite way to deal with this situation is to rescind your invitation for an ongoing house guest once a month. Since you hosted her once, it would seem fair that upon reflection, it was not convenient for you to repeat this on a regular basis. Hopefully your friend will understand. If she does not, there is something amiss, in my opinion, with your friendship. I have some messy relatives who occasionally visit, and if they did so regularly it would be added work for me to deal with their mess on top of my regular house-cleaning. With relatives, you can at least admonish them about their habits (to some degree), but with friends, it could be hurtful for the friend to hear your comments, although valid. Best to keep your response simple!

    • Nina

      Hi Hostess,

      While I certainly agree with the suggestions of the other posters, one additional thing I would point out: if she is travelling for work for a week at a time, her employer is likely offering to pay for a hotel, meals, etc–either to book it for her ahead of time or reimburse her after the fact. If this is the case, she probably wanted to stay with you instead because it would be more fun (I’ve accepted invitations like this while on work trips) but it would be very easy for her to switch to a hotel.

      I guess that’s not the case with every employer, but certainly a lot of them!

      All best,
      Nina

  2. Jody

    You could send her a note or call her saying something like “unfortunately my schedule won’t permit me to play host this time.”

    Has she already asked if she can stay with you? If so, you need to let her know as soon as possible; if she hasn’t I think a note or call would still be in order.

    If you’ve already said you could host her this time I don’t think you could gracefully back out of it. In that case maybe a note or call with new “house rules” would help — something like “Mary, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to have house rules for all my guests” and then list things like shutting the refrigerator door, keeping personal items in the guest room. Sleeping late is, I think, a reasonable accommodation unless she expects absolute silence until late morning.

    • Jerry

      “House rules”? Really? Seriously? Such passive aggressive behavior will get the point across that you don’t really want her there while, at the same time, leaving the impression that you [host] are petty.

      The other commentators are correct that you can always say that your schedule doesn’t allow you to host; if you’ve already said “yes,” you can’t gracefully bow out unless there is some sort of emergency.

      • Alicia

        House rules are not passive aggressive at all they are clear and forthright. There is no passive aggresive judgement just simply different houses do things differently. It prevents miscommunication and thus is the exact opposite of passive aggresive it is active gentleness.

        • Jerry

          I would agree with you in the situation described below concerning the seven-year olds that there are “house rules.” But telling someone that it is a so-called house rule that they close the refrigerator? That’s a bridge too far for me.

          • Pam

            I am having a little trouble with the house rules as well. If they are so specific, the friend may realize that they are actually geared toward her due to the previous visit. While it may be evident that she is completely oblivious due to the fact that she left the fridge open, left a mess, etc it is not safe to assume that she will not realize it is b/c of her. It’s not worth it to create a tension with this friend. I think if the request to stay was already asked and granted, then hostess needs to just take a deep breath and get ready for her guest. It’s also not required that she be available for her guest for the entire week. Perhaps too, things could be nipped in the bud as they happen. If stuff is in the hallway, maybe hostess could say “Guest, would you mind if I helped you move your suitcase and towels into the room so nobody trips?” or “I’m just going to move your laptop into your room as I need to get to the linen closet.” If hostess has not yet been asked or replied to guest, then I would definitely go with everyone else’s suggestion that hostess says she is unable to host due to other obligations and responsibilities that week.

      • Jody

        Jerry, you need to realize that other opinions are valid. “House rules” are not necessarily passive-aggressive or petty. They’re a clear statement of what the host expects. As long as she applies the rules to all guests there shouldn’t be a problem.

        House rules can apply to any visitors as well as overnight guests. They’re a statement of how you behave in your house and how you expect others to behave. I’m sure that most of us here have “house rules,” whether written or unwritten.

        • Jerry

          Jody: Sometimes there is a right answer and a wrong answer; your answer was wrong for reasons I’ve mentioned. That the earth is round is not an opinion even though some have chosen to disbelieve it; similarly, telling your adult friends that you expect them to follow your “house rules” is a good way to lose your friends.

          You’re absolutely right that most expect our guests to behave appropriately, most of us are also mature enough that we can deal with our adult house guests without having to shout “house rules” before they come over. Hosts should be gracious — if they can’t deal with a house guest, they should not have that guest come over anymore. Or follow Pam’s excellent advice by nipping problem behaviors in the bud as opposed to dragging a list of grievances from a prior visit.

          Moreover, how do you put guests on notice about the “house rules”? Do you e-mail them a list of “house rules” ahead of the visit? Is hostess a hotel e-mailing a confirmation of reservation subject to “terms and conditions”? Or does hostess read all of the “house rules” when guest asks to stay over? I can’t imagine how that conversation would go. What happens if guest violates one of the rules? Does hostess have to immediately go to guest and say “house rules! house rules!”? (Remember, you said that hostess can have house rules “[a]s long as she applies the rules to all guests.”) If guest feels that hostess is applying the “house rules” in an arbitrary and capricious manner, can she complain to hostess’s corporate offices? The point is, Jody, that hostess isn’t running a business — that means that the relationship isn’t governed by a contract.

          An exception to the “house rules” card is described below — you tell children that their behavior is against the “house rules” because children don’t necessarily know how to behave, and “house rules” is softer than “because I said so.”

          • Winifred Rosenburg

            Jerry, I think you need to review the definitions of “fact” and “opinion.” Just because you decided something is true does not make it a fact; it has not been scientifically proven so it is still an opinion as is Jody’s idea. I would also suggest you review the definition of “passive aggressive.” A passive aggressive way of handling this situation would be to have the person over, not say anything to her, then complain about her behind her back. In general, passive aggressive behavior does not involve speaking directly to the person you have a problem with as Jody’s suggestion does.

          • Jerry

            Winfred: You may also need some assistance with definitions. Let me help you out. You’re absolutely right that one passive aggressive way of handling this would be to have the person over, then complain behind their back. Another would be to tell the person they could come over, but only if they follow a series of “house rules” that are so particular as to be an un-vitation. Again, who does this? Who tells their guests — before they come over — that they need to make sure that they close the refrigerator door?

            Also, it is not debatable (at least amongst people of reason) that passive aggressive behavior is likely to cause one to lose friends. That the concept has not been peer reviewed is irrelevant.

      • Chocobo

        Jerry, I agree that the refrigerator door is a bit too micro-managing to constitute a “house rule”, but I can’t agree with throwing out the concept of house rules for house guests entirely. House guests are different from normal visitors in that they are generally expected to follow the customs of the house. How are they to know what the expectations are without being informed?

        That being said, something like closing refrigerators is a little much. A house rule is more like what time meals are served, where to leave used towels, and whether or not shoes are worn about the house.

        • Jerry

          I was taught that you follow the host’s suit and that you ask when in doubt. So if the host is compulsive about shoes off in the house, the guest follows that cue! I have never gotten a call or a note ahead of time as to how I am expected to behave. Absent unusual circumstances (i.e., little Johny has to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day and will make a lot of noise), I’d be shocked if someone decided to have someone tell me “I’ve decided to have house rules for all my guests” before I was allowed to stay overnight. (Remember, that’s what started this thread.) And I’m curious as to whether anyone — when they were adults — had a similar conversation before an overnighter.

          BTW, I was also raised that normal visitors are also expected to follow the customs of the house. (See, e.g., shoes on or off.) The only difference is that normal visitors leave within a few hours and house guests stay a little while longer.

    • Zakafury

      The definition of “passive-aggressive” is a common point of conflict on this board. I think that the term only applies to saying or doing something, and meaning something else. In this case, that’s a matter for interpretation.

      Jerry is 100% correct that saying “I have house rules for all my guests,” but meaning “I do not want you here, and I have special rules for the things you do which annoy me” is passive-aggressive.

      I think Jody intended to say what she meant. “I would love to have you over, but I need you to follow a few expectations.”

      If your friend reads it like Jerry, that’s bad. If she reads it like Jody, you’re okay.

      I, however, find the phrase very condescending, regardless of intent. “House rules” are suitable for small children. Adults are given some polite deference:. When something comes up, mention it without assigning blame. “My fridge spring isn’t very good, could you be careful it shuts?”

      Jerry is also dead on about adapting to the customs of the home you are visiting. I believe EPE18 specifically mentions that this includes when to get out of bed. If you want to avoid hosting because she doesn’t adapt to your lifestyle or because she leaves things a mess, then Winifred’s initial response is fantastic.

  3. Lee

    Being honest with children ~ at what age?

    My 3 & 7 year old children would like their two cousins (also siblings) to spend the night. My children have gone to the cousins house for sleepovers a few times. I’ll admit I was hesitant as the cousins behave badly, rudely and very physically aggressive. (This is just not my observation) The parents don’t seem to have a good plan for cause and consequence for their bad behavior so I have no interest in welcoming that into my house for a weekend. Our kids seemed to come back okay from their sleepovers – with the typical events happening as I expected.

    My question is at what age do I explain this to my oldest, or don’t I? (why I don’t want the cousins at my house) At 7 they are old enough to be aware that they keep asking but it never comes to fruition. I’ve said nothing to the parents but I am sure they may wonder why the offer of a sleep over isn’t returned, as my children have asked them about it in front of me. The typical response is “we’ll see”.

    • I suggest having the cousins over, if for no other reason than to return the favor. Perhaps by seeing order in your home, you will inadvertently be helping these children.

      My younger brother had a couple of wild friends, and my parents felt similar to you. However, my parents allowed the children to spend the night, but laid down ground rules at the beginning of the visit and stuck with them. Some of their basic speech as follows:
      “We won’t tell you what to do in your own home, but in our house you follow our rules. No hitting or biting. No running inside the house. No yelling after 8 pm. We say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ If you can’t follow these rules, we’ll take you home.”

      My parents did have to discipline the children every now and then, but never had to take a kid home.

      • Alicia

        I agree with Laura. House rules are a great thing. Having the kids over and showing them that it is possible to have fun and behave civil is probably a great gift to your neices and nephews.
        But do lay down the law. Even depending on the reading level writing a list of rules.

  4. Chocobo

    Not exactly an etiquette issue, but with Father’s Day approaching I thought I would share an email that gave me a double-take. I received an email with discount offers from a major online coupon company, bearing the subject line: “Father’s Day deals for the man who gave birth to you.” The father who did what, now? Whoops! Perhaps recycling the Mother’s Day email template was a poor choice. We all want to honor our fathers, but perhaps a little reminder is due that no father, no matter how wonderful, is capable of giving birth.

    • I see you’re subscribed to Groupon as well.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a moment to read what the Groupon cat says (by clicking on an individual deal and scrolling down), but it’s mostly nonsense. I took their email’s title to be more of the same entertainment-only silliness that characterizes about 1/2 their site.

    • Ashleigh

      LOL! I went back and read it again thinking surely I must have messed up the first time. I think they were attempting humor but really just made me go huh??? :)

      • Pam

        I got that email too! I figured that it was an attempt at humor…but look what it did: got us all talking about Groupon. These people know what they are doing haha!

  5. Pam

    I don’t know if anyone saw the clip of Kathie Lee Gifford interviewing Martin Short today. She talked to him about his wife as if she were alive (She died 2 years ago.) He was so gracious that he just rolled right through it answering the 2 or 3 questions as if she were alive, to save Kathie Lee the embarassment of being told on live TV that his wife was deceased. He then told her after the cameras were off, which I think was also important. He obviously is an example of having wonderful manners and class. I just wanted to share!

    • Had no idea! Too often we hear about celebrities messing up or behaving poorly, but thanks for reminding us that many are very classy people. What a nice example.

  6. bettyel

    My cousin recently got engaged and is starting to plan her wedding. Her parents got divorced several years ago, when she was 26, and she does not want her father to give her away, even though he was an excellent father. She wants her mother to give her away, because she hasn’t forgiven him, and because she doesn’t want her dad’s new wife to come to the wedding. However, excluding her dad would deeply offend her grandmother. Help!?

    • Pam

      This is a tough one. She needs to really think through or she may regret her decision in the future. It’s the one shot at being given away (hopefully) and it should be a day where the differences are put aside and the 2 people who brought her into the world give her away. The new wife is part of his life now and she to accept that. My Mom’s parents divorced when my Mom was 24 and newly maarried. My Mom wasn’t crazy about the new wife but she has never ever excluded her, for she knew that she would be destroying her relationship with her Dad.How close are you with your cousin? How promising would a chat be?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      As your cousin seems to have already discovered, it is difficult to plan a wedding without someone getting unreasonably offended. Because her preference does not violate any etiquette, it is up to her how much consideration to give her grandmother’s opinion. Having her mother give her away is a perfectly fine option. Here are some others that she may not have considered that her grandmother may consider less offensive: have both parents give her away, have neither parent give her away, tell the grandmother she wanted to honor the mother this way because she is already honoring her father by having a dance with him or whatever.

    • Aloicious

      I am a little confused: Why are YOU asking for help and not your cousin? This is her wedding, and her long-term effects and consequences to handle, not yours. My advice is to not get involved. You may not know the entire picture as to why your cousin is upset with her father.

      From the outside, it may seem like she is being unreasonable. Indeed, at weddings, it is important to remember (and easy to forget) that this is a day about the GUESTS, and ensuring that they enjoy themselves. So, from the outside, it seems as if your cousin should just swallow her issues, and let her dad walk her down the aisle.

      But at the same time, it’s not your wedding, or your father, and you probably do not know the entire issue, so my advice is to sit back and let it play out without interfering. You, she, and everyone else will be grateful in the long-run.

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