The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Guest trying to be helpful creates more work for host

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had an overnight guest who proudly informed me the next day that I need not change the linens on the bed since he had not slept between the sheets!

I was appalled but did not feel it was appropriate to inquire exactly where he actually slept. I assumed it was on top of the blanket and under the quilt since this occurred in the wintertime.

This is not the first time this type of thing has happened, although in the past the guest was a young adult and I assumed it was just youthful ignorance. This time the guest was my father-in-law!

Of course, I still had to strip the bed of all linens, including the blanket and quilt, and launder everything. How does a hostess politely explain that she expects her guests to sleep between the sheets and that not doing so creates more, not less, work for her?

GENTLE READER: Guests who invent odd schemes to avoid being troublesome can be a nuisance, Miss Manners agrees. It is not only annoying, but also faintly insulting to presume that a host so resents the normal housework connected with entertaining as to be grateful to a guest who refrains from using the simple amenities. Plus, as you point out, it can create extra work.

Presumably, your father-in-law will be visiting again. You should invest in a washable blanket cover, which is something very like a sheet. Or a duvet with a washable cover.

Another precaution would be to say graciously, on the next visit, “I know you like to sleep on top of the bed, so I’ve had the blanket cleaned for you.” If he protests, you must reply, “No, no, it was no trouble at all. I want you to be comfortable.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A young cousin has recently graduated from high school. His mother asked my uncle, another aunt and her husband, and my fiance and me to pitch in $200 each to purchase a computer for him to use in college.

All of us agreed to do so. She decided that the computer we chose was inadequate and took it upon herself to upgrade it to a more expensive model. She is now requesting that we increase our contribution to $600 each.

Understand that I love my cousin dearly. However, I feel substantially burdened by this request. It was a pinch for me to find the $200, and another $400 seems unreasonable. I would like your opinion, please.

GENTLE READER: It is that this is what naturally comes of allowing people to dictate their own — or in this case, a son’s — presents. Instead of gratitude, you get a demand to upgrade.

Miss Manners advises the contributors to give the mother one answer, so that those who feel shamed into giving more do not put pressure on others. It should be a polite but firm statement that you regret that your present isn’t satisfactory, but of course she is free to improve upon it.

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

, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS



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