Q. Please discuss house guests who visit roommates.
Out of financial necessity, four of us share a town house. We all have our own bedrooms; the other two women share the full bath off the master bedroom. I share the hall bath with the man who is our fourth roommate.
We live quite independently of each other, rarely go out or socialize with each other, but the household runs quite smoothly.
We all split the rent and divide all the household expenses. We each cook for ourselves, buying our food independently. We have no communal food supply. We share a living room with half bath, a dining-room-turned-study area, and a small kitchen with a table that seats three.
Things were fine until we started getting house guests.
What are the hostess' responsibilities toward both the guests and the roommates? What are the "roommates" responsibilities? And how should guests act?
Here are some of the situations that have occurred:
Guests I and II "didn't want to be any bother" to their hostess, and so would not use her bathroom, but instead used the hall bath and those "towels already out." They left the living room sofa bed continually open and their suitcases and personal things strewn about so that it constantly looked like a fifth bedroom and was unusable as a living room.
Guests III and IV didn't seem to realize that we were cooking individually, and acted shocked when I didn't share my dinner. (I didn't have enough to share.)
They also made no attempt at all to be quiet in the mornings, although they knew I was on a schedule that should have allowed me to sleep an hour longer. I felt they thought I was somewhat of a co-hostess.
Guest V tried to be helpful and even attempted to help me out by removing dishes from my bedroom and putting them in the dishwasher. Since these included my cat's water bowl and my favorite mug, neither of which I ever put in the dishwasher, it was a puzzle to figure out where they were.
Guest VI not only used our bath, even when his hostess' was empty, he dripped puddles all over the floor, even after I left a note about it. You realize what a mess street shoes leave on a once-clean white tile floor when immersed in a puddle. And you can guess how yukky and inconvenient it is to step into a puddle right after you've just put on socks.
This guest also used our personal towels, even after I had checked to make sure he had guest towels. Isn't it lovely to turn off the shower, reach for your towel, and find it already damp and messy? Also, several evenings when I was home, this guest tied up the phone.
All the guests tended to carry on conversations in the hallway outside our bedroom doors while we were sleeping. The most minor problem was having people in the way, lounging against the sink or counter, as we tried to cook.
If these were in-laws, I'd feel certain responsibilities. If I really were a co-hostess, I'd know how to act. Since I'm not, I don't know the delicate differences between rudeness and being straightforward.
Separately, these problems aren't very big. But I'm totally fed up by now. My roommates either can't or won't suggest anything about making sure we aren't constantly imposed on by guests. What should we do?
The etiquette rules of the past never had to deal with a multi-independent person household. Can you please provide some ground rules?
A. Oh, yes, they did, but the establishments were called boarding houses, and they had a resident owner who made rules and enforced them or ejected people who violated them. You will have to do this cooperatively, as equals, which is harder, but as you have managed to put together a smooth household in other respects, Miss Manners is confident you can accomplish this.
What is throwing you off is the pseudo-social relationship you feel toward the guests, who have thus innocently aroused your ire. Miss Manners rather pities them, warily creeping about, dripping with anxiety to be out of their hostess' way, only to stumble into yours.
Throw them a metaphorical towel, will you?
Draw up some rules about how much hospitality--including telephone time, bathroom assignments and food supplies--each of you has to offer your guests. If you print them and either hand them out or post them, each of you can apologize to her guests, pleading their cooperation in placating an unreasonable, fastidious and strict landlady who remains secluded in the attic unless her wrath is aroused.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.
Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.