June 22, 2005

Judith Martin, also known as “Miss Manners.” I mean, you’ve just got to love her.

Here’s the first letter from today’s column in the Washington Post:

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?

Now, the answer to this inquiry is fairly obvious, and what your gut is telling you right now likely will be similar to Martin’s response, but I doubt you can zing it like she can as demonstrated in her initial reaction:

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”?

By the way, Martin has a new book out on the market: Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated.


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