The rules of etiquette for house guests were developed with people in mind who are so overwhelmed at the honor of actually being encouraged to use the lace-edged guest towels that their only desperate wish is to be worthy.
Dear friends though these people may be of their hosts, confident as they undoubtedly are in their ordinary pursuits of life, they only want to be told how best to avoid making trouble.
Should they arise at dawn and spend the whole morning, if necessary, listening for the first creak so that they may pretend to arise at the identical hour the family does? How can they insist that they adore eating out, so as to carry a portion of the meal costs, without seeming to slight the cuisine of the house? And what, oh what, do they do about the shameful fact that they cannot leave their sheets as laundered as they found them?
Miss Manners does not wish to discourage such house guests from sensitivity to their hosts, much as one isoccasionally tempted to tell them, "Oh, lighten up," because they may be making more trouble fretting than they do just by existing.
Whatshe would prefer to do is to take just a bit of that anxiety to douse all those people lying about the summer cottages of hosts they expect to wait on them but whose last names, much less living habits, they have not bothered to learn.
Communal arrangements, promiscuously offered hospitality and the general decay of civilization have created a new sort of creature calling itself a house guest.
This is the person whose invitation was never authorized by whoever runs the house; who feels less obligation to the owners than he would to a public accommodation, where he at least understands he has to pay bills and be responsible for damage; and who is confident questions of reciprocation, consideration and gratitude have nothing whatever to do with his situation.
The chief difference between such people and squatters is that somebody connected with the house did invite them. There is no question of ejecting them unceremoniously, although it sometimes comes to that. One or more residents want them there, and the others -- whether they are co-renters or parents -- recognize the legitimacy of allowing visitors.
And they could even turn into pleasant additions, if they were required to abide by rules of behavior protecting the hosts from undue imposition.
For that, one needs a house policy about how invitations may be issued, expectations about guest behavior that the inviter must convey to his guests, and perhaps even a clear definition of a house guest.
A house guest is a person who stays for a defined and limited amount of time, as opposed to an unanticipated resident who may be the result of a sudden attack of romance or insanity on the part of one of the residents. (Overnight guests who leave before breakfast don't officially exist.)
In a house in which parents preside, the policy should be that all prospects and the timing of their visits must be cleared in advance. These guests do not incur expenses, but they do incur obligations -- the minimal normal courtesies being acknowledging the presence of the parents, observing the amenities of the house and sending a letter of thanks afterward.
Households of peers may recognize each person's right to entertain separate guests without providing character references, but the house guest should nevertheless be introduced to all residents, so he recognizes that this is a household and not a rest station.
Depending on the length of the stay, provision must be made for the additional expenses and work involved. One could allow weekend guests for free, for example, require the individual host to kick in for longer visits, and welcome the indefinite guest as a new resident who gets to share equally in the budget and the chores.
In all of these cases, the object is to make the house guest sensible of a position which may be flattering, convenient and pleasant, but should never be comfortably free of the awareness that one is, in fact, staying at the pleasure, if not the sufferance, of the hosts.
To whom does one's baby book belong? The pictures and facts contained in mine are all concerned with me, but I have the feeling I would be incorrect to ask my parents for it.
Yes,you would be. You cannot deprive them of the fun they will have watching your children laugh themselves silly over it.
But what your parents anticipated when they fondly made the book was the pleasure of looking back on your babyhood when you grew up, which is presumably now. Miss Manners trusts that you have done nothing to sour their memories of parental hopes and dreams.
Nevertheless, she must tell you that even the dottiest parents do not quite have the concept of your glorious and unique identity that you do. To their minds, they had something to do with that baby, in the way of creating and rearing him. They kept the baby book not only for proof of their having been personally present at the development of a great person, but also as a record of their own pride and pleasure in their baby.
Besides, you are sure to inherit it. Miss Manners promises you that no one else is bidding for it.