DEAR MISS MANNERS: We live on a small cul-de-sac in a gated community in an area where hurricanes are not uncommon. As a consequence, we invested in a whole-house generator.
We have lived in the area only a short time, but our next-door neighbors made clear their expectations of us early on. They told us they would help themselves to the limes from our lime tree, for example. They have also told us on more than one occasion that when weather causes a power outage, they expect to stay with us. When a hurricane is approaching, we don’t know how to gently dissuade them from moving in with us.
GENTLE READER: When a hurricane is approaching, it will be a bit late to turn people from your door. Simple humanity requires you to protect even disagreeable people from imminent danger.
Your neighbors do sound disagreeable, and as they do not recognize boundaries, as it were, you do need to establish some rules. About those limes, for example. At the time they announced intentions to steal them, you could have asked pleasantly what they proposed to give you in return. And even now, you can drop the remark that you are planning to use all those limes, so if they were serious about pilfering, would they please kindly refrain.
You should also have a talk about hurricanes. “I’m concerned about you, because we may not be able to help,” you can say. “When a hurricane happens to strike, it could be at a time when we are away, or we could have a full house. You really need to plan for your own safety.”
Alternatively, you could revert to the idea of reciprocity. “As we have the generator, and you plan to come here, why don’t you help us stock up for emergencies? If you would provide canned goods and water now, we’ll keep them here for when we all need them.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I politely tell parents that when my 13-year-old daughter invites their girls for a sleepover, it’s not an invitation to let the parents spend a night on the town, then retrieve their children very late that night?
Often a parent will reply to our overnight invite by telling us they’ll come by to get their girl at 10 or 11 p.m. This means I’m unable to close up my house, get into my pajamas, relax and get to bed — because I’m waiting for these parents to show up at the door.
Their responses are always couched very politely: “We would love for Lucy to come over! But we need to retrieve her at 10 because she has an early morning appointment.” I can’t really say, “Sorry, this was a sleepover invite, not a baby-sitting job.” Advice?
GENTLE READER: Just some judicious editing to the remark you admit you cannot make. Miss Manners’s version is: “Oh, dear, I’m so sorry — and Lily will be so sorry that Lucy can’t be here for the sleepover. I’m sure she’ll want to invite her another time, when Lucy can stay overnight.”