Dear Miss Manners:
My husband and I live in a particularly picturesque (and heavily touristed) part of the world. From time to time we invite friends or family members and they often stay for more than a week at a time.
Is it rude to clean (say, to scrub the guest bathroom or to do laundry using the washing machine in our kitchen) while guests are in our home?
If we don't take care of these things, they (and we) will run out of clean towels and sheets or we will find ourselves walking on crumb-filled or sticky floors (or worse). Spot-cleaning will not suffice in many cases and we could not afford to pay someone to clean for us while we entertain elsewhere.
If our guests do not take us up on suggestions that will take them out of our house for a while (taking a walk with one of us while the other cleans, or going to a concert or for coffee elsewhere), is it permissible for us to roll up our sleeves and take care of household business (i.e. clean up after them) while they look on?
That's all they do while you're down on your hands and knees scrubbing up after them -- look on? Don't any of them ever say, "You missed a spot over there"?
Miss Manners commends you for attempting to send them out of the house. This is the tactful thing to do, as it makes clear that you are not conscripting them into domestic service. In the same spirit, the first feeble, "Oh, can't we stay and help?" should be considered merely formal and answered with the assurance that it will be easier for you to do your chores if they are out amusing themselves.
After that, those who choose not to go should have the decency to ask more seriously to help. If they insist, you may mention some light task or tell them cheerfully but firmly that you have your routines so well organized that the biggest help would be for them to find a quiet corner out of the way.
Dear Miss Manners:
I am a high school student and am on some sports teams for my school. I have a letter for being on a varsity team and I also have a lot of medals. When people come up to me and say, "Wow, you have a lot of medals," I say thanks and leave it at that. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I enjoy the compliments. Is there anything else that I could say that would get my thanks out better?
The comment that you quote is an awkward compliment at best, as it is merely a neutral observation; Miss Manners would have preferred something more in the way of admiration. However, you are right to take it as such, and there is nothing arrogant about an expression of thanks.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2005, Judith Martin