Dear Miss Manners: I spent a few weeks at my parents’ house, and while I adore them, I don’t think I can stay with them for future visits. The guest bed is more than 20 years old and kills my back, the towels are so musty you feel dirty if you use them after a shower, and they had a cockroach infestation in the kitchen!
I bought a new towel, and my mom saw it and was deeply offended. I snuck a foam topper onto the bed after attempting to deal with the mattress for a few nights, but I was still in serious pain. We managed to prepare food and eat without anything sitting out for bugs to get into, but I was incredibly stressed out every time I was in the kitchen.
I would like to stay at a hotel next time, because I think being well-rested and not stressed out about hygiene will help the visit be more enjoyable. But my mom is a proud woman, and I am afraid it will lead to a rift in our relationship. How would you navigate this situation?
Do you really consider this merely an accommodation problem?
Miss Manners is sorry that you feel stressed, but what about your adored parents, who seem to be living in unsanitary conditions? Would you be content to let that go on if you were able to enjoy the comforts of a hotel?
However, you are right that you have an etiquette problem — a major one: Your mother takes help as an insult.
You can try disguising cleaning up as a present, whether you hire someone or do it yourself, and override protests by declaring your desire to do things for your parents.
Yes, Miss Manners knows that will not go over well. But an immediate cleanup is only the beginning. Perhaps there are other relatives who can help, and you could investigate available social services. Presuming they did not live like this when you were growing up, you have a much more serious problem than your comfort.
Dear Miss Manners: The great debate over how to properly address women continues, especially in the South. But rather than ask Miss Manners to plant her feet firmly on either side of that fence, my question is:
If a woman has clearly stated that she does not like being addressed as “ma’am,” “Ms. First Name” or “young lady,” is it okay for the other person to continue addressing her those ways, simply because it’s “regional” or “how they were raised”?
Exactly what would be accomplished by addressing a lady in a manner that she has specifically stated she dislikes?
It is true that Miss Manners loses patience with the raw feelings that prompt people to take offense when well-meaning people address them. There are so many forms in use that it is easy to arouse the ire of someone who, for example, objects to such a respectful title as “ma’am.”
Still, deliberately annoying someone who has warned you only makes the situation worse.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin