Miss Manners: Invitation for house guests should be joint decision

October 18, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Since my husband has retired and I still work full time, he has wanted to spend more and more time with his two sisters and their families, who both live a good two states away.

A few weeks ago, one of the sisters called him and made arrangements to stay at our house overnight, along with their two teenage daughters and their two friends. Their plan was just to spend the night at our home and go to a nearby amusement park the next day.

I knew nothing about it until two days beforehand. Since I had to work the day following their visit, I was not too pleased to have to provide for house guests, even though dinner was at a nearby restaurant, because of the surprise aspect.

I was not consulted about whether the visit would be inconvenient. I felt that our home was used as an inexpensive way to avoid paying for a motel. We do not have beds to sleep six adults plus ourselves. My husband spent the night on the living room sofa.

I was sorely tempted to purchase an etiquette book as a high school graduation gift for the older daughter, in an attempt to steer her future endeavors in the right direction. My husband is aware I was annoyed by the whole situation, but I feel it will definitely happen again, as this is somewhat normal behavior on his side of the family.

I was brought up to believe that the lady of the house should be consulted regarding overnight stays. Have I been wrong all these years?

GENTLE READER: Much as Miss Manners would like to encourage the sale of etiquette books, she cannot see that your niece or her family did anything wrong. The person with whom you need to negotiate is your husband. And it is not a good idea to open with, “It’s my house because I’m the lady.” He probably believes that the house is just as much his -- and that family conviviality amounts to more than saving the price of a motel room.

Your chosen mediator, Miss Manners, agrees with him.

However, the object here is not a victory for either of you, but an agreeable home for you both. The concessions she advises you to ask are that he consult you when a visit is proposed -- your consent not to be unreasonably withheld -- and that he, being retired, do the major part of attending to the visitors’ needs.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend has lent me a book about a subject that is of interest to me. I am halfway through the book (more than 200 pages so far) and find it not very well written.

Would it be impolite of me not to finish the book? My feeling is that I must finish the book in order to be truthful in saying that I did indeed read it.

GENTLE READER: Are you saying that one has to read every word of a book to claim to have read it, or, for that matter, to deliver an opinion about it? Are you trying to muzzle intellectual society?

Your friend is not going to quiz you. You need only return the book with thanks and, if possible, mumble that it had a good point or two. If not, you can always say that it is interesting to know what is being said in the field.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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