Unclogging House Guests

Unclogging House Guests

Unclogging House Guests

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 22 1999 3:32 AM

Unclogging House Guests

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

Last weekend a friend and her husband came to visit me for a few days. This is a friend I have known for 25 years, and although we've lived in different cities for the last 23 years, we've always kept in touch and stayed fairly close. We had a great weekend--saw the sights of the city, ate out, etc. But the day after they left for home, I found some damage had been done that they hadn't told me about. The turntable in the microwave was chipped, and the toilet in their bathroom was clogged. Neither of these things in and of themselves bothers me. What does bother me is that this lifelong friend didn't have the courtesy to let me know what had happened. Should I just let these things go in the name of preserving the friendship? If not, what are my options?

--C.S.

Dear C.,

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The chums took the easy way out. It was not classy or first-rate, but it saved them what they perceived to be embarrassment. Avoidance is a rather common behavior ... some people decide it's easier to skitter away than to 'fess up. Granted, it's left-footed social behavior; Prudie is not going to argue with you there. Your options, however, depend on how strongly you feel about letting them know you know. If you just can't stand to let it ride, then write a non-accusatory note saying you were sad they didn't feel close enough to have mentioned the microwave or the sluggish toilet. To lighten it up, you could add that all the repairs have been made, and you look forward to their return visit. Think about it for a few days, then decide how you want to play it.

--Prudie, tactfully

Dear Prudence,

A year ago my husband's cousin and his wife moved in with us. They were relocating from another state and needed a place to live "for a few months" while they got to know the area, and found jobs and a place to live. They agreed to pay half the rent and attendant bills.

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Well, they're still with us, and they never pay anything on time. They seem to think that junk food qualifies as their half of the groceries. My husband and I keep the house supplied with good food, but we can't afford to support two grown adults. We also cannot stand their dog. (It's not housebroken, and it's full-grown.) We have made subtle hints and mentioned that they need to start looking for their own place. But they aren't catching on. How do we tell them to get out of our house without causing family problems? We've always been close and don't want to lose the friendship. They are using us, and I need help with this.

--T.M.

Dear T.,

The "visitors" are, indeed, using you, but you've permitted it. Family problems seem a small price to pay for evicting two junk-food-eating freeloaders with a dog that uses your house as a fire hydrant. Subtle hints won't cut it, guys. You've got to insist that the "temporary" situation--now at 12 months and counting--has run its course. They have overstayed their welcome and must be told to leave. Unless the name of your house is Ritz-Carlton, bag the subtle approach, and give them a deadline for their departure. And do ask for a settling of accounts, as per the original agreement. Prudie is sputtering on your behalf and wishes you tons of luck.

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--Prudie, insistently

Dear Prudie,

How long is a fair amount of time to date someone before getting engaged? My girlfriend, the love of my life for the last five years, recently broke up with me because she felt our relationship had gone on too long without any sign of future commitment. I always intended to marry her and always reminded her of this when the topic came up. She feels that if I truly loved her I would take her now before anyone else did. Since we are both only 24 years old, I felt we shouldn't rush things, since we have the rest of our lives to be together.

What do you think?

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--Left Long Before the Altar

Dear Left,

Ah yes, which came first ... the chicken or the engagement ring? Five years with the love of your life--whom you've always planned to marry--suggests that this would not be a rush job. Prudie thinks a fair amount of time to date someone before getting engaged would be ... oh, five years. So hop to it and get her back with whatever kind of engagement ring you can afford.

--Prudie, romantically

Dear Prudence,

I just bought a seersucker suit and was wondering if you could give me some fashion tips on the types of shoes, ties, shirts, and belts I should wear with it.

--Hot in Florida

Dear Hot,

You obviously have Prudie confused with some other columnist, but just so it shouldn't be wasted bandwidth, by all means wear any shoes, ties, shirts and belts that don't clash with the suit.

--Prudie, nattily

Dear Prudence,

I am 45 years old and a former accomplished gymnast in Texas. During my years as a devoted gymnast, I experienced several damaging landings and falls during practice. Multiple surgeries have left me somewhat "ambulatory impaired" and unable to wear skirts/dresses with high heels. I am short in stature, wear a brace on my right lower leg, and have four stainless-steel implants in my right ankle. Wearing a skirt or dress without pumps looks pathetic on me, and people tend to stare. Well-designed pantsuits and formal pant-wear allow me to attend professional and social functions without the appearance of an obvious handicap. My question: Why do so many people take offense at my wearing pants to the many functions I must attend?

Thanks!

--Female Athlete

Dear Fem,

Anyone who believes women wearing pants is incorrect is antediluvian. Even the stuffy dining rooms in Boston's most WASPy clubs allow them. Plus, Katharine Hepburn and Prudie have been wearing them for years, so you are in good company.

--Prudie, stylishly