Q: Twice in one week I have been compared to two celebrities who look nothing like me, or each other! One friend continued to insist that I look like said celebrity even when I politely ignored him and changed the subject. He even referred to her as my “twin.”
To add insult to injury, neither of these two celebrities share my hair or eye color (I am a redhead with green eyes). Furthermore, I consider one of these actresses to be ugly. What is the proper response to unsolicited comparisons like these?
A: Presume that the intention was to compliment you, and tell these people “thank you.” If you do not agree with the celebrity comparison, Miss Manners permits you to punctuate that thank-you with a question mark.
Q: I’m at a loss as to how to take care of household chores when we have houseguests.
We regularly get visitors (sometimes family, sometimes friends) who may stay a few days, a week or two weeks. The house is clean when they arrive, but I try not to do any cleaning, other than cooking and washing dishes, while they are here.
The house can go several days without cleaning, but eventually it starts to show (especially with the floors and bathrooms). I don’t know what to do about it.
If I start cleaning while they are sitting and relaxing, their discomfort shows at watching me clean around them. If they help me clean, I feel bad about turning my guests into servants. If I don’t clean, I must look like a poor housekeeper, and the house becomes uncomfortable.
It rarely happens that I can wait until they go out somewhere, because we are always together. Today I tried waiting until everyone was in bed and did some general cleaning in the bathroom, but then I was worried I was making too much noise, and that definitely won’t work with vacuuming.
A: If guests are staying more than a few days — particularly if they are doing it repeatedly — Miss Manners considers them to be more temporary residents than visitors, and they should be treated as such.
Clean when you feel the need to clean, prefacing it by saying, “Excuse me, but I just want to tidy up a bit.” At that point the onus is on the guest to offer to help. You should not feel bad about accepting it, although giving them a few menial tasks is probably plenty. If they do not offer to help, then their discomfort is their own problem.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.