DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband, son and I visited my sister and her husband, who have a home in Florida. After all three of use had taken our showers, I asked my sister what to do with the towels we used.
She told me to hang them up to dry and reuse them.
Well, I was shocked that she told me this and wasn't sure who used what towel. But I did as she requested.
We stayed two days as we planned. On our last day she asked me to strip the beds and put the sheets in the washer.
I felt that was poor hospitality. Do you agree?
GENTLE READER: Did you and your sister grow up in a household where the sheets and towels were changed daily, and perhaps twice if anyone took an afternoon nap or bath?
If so, Miss Manners has bad news for you: The rest of the world does not live like that, and this now includes your sister. Unless there is an ample staff in evidence, good houseguests make their beds every day and strip them before they depart, leaving the linens in a neat pile and neatly covering the bed with its spread.
And here is a tip for remembering which towel is whose: They come in different colors.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A relative is having a significant birthday soon, and we are planning a large family gathering. At first, she said "no presents," and that was fine. We agreed amongst ourselves that we would be pleased to pool our large and small donations and give a gift in her honor to one of her usual charities.
But then, the plans changed. Now we will all go out to dinner together, and then reassemble afterward at home for an auction of items collected by the Birthday Honoree, with the proceeds to be given to her charity.
This feels uncomfortable. One problem is that there is a large group of grandchildren who are in college, graduate school or their first jobs. This plan puts unnecessary pressure on them to bid "adequate" amounts of money in front of the whole family.
We have expressed our concerns, but they were overridden: the Auction will go on. Other adults would be pleased to simply make a donation to this new charity, without having to bid on items that we're not sure we need. But the Birthday Honoree feels this will be an interesting activity for everyone.
Is there any way that we can honestly and tactfully avoid this embarrassment? (We thought of eating very slowly at the restaurant and taking a looonnng time there so we wouldn't have to go home!)
GENTLE READER: Is there any way Miss Manners can make people stop thinking up schemes for turning their personal occasions into fund-raisers? And from believing that doing it for charity whitewashes the fact that their largesse comes from someone else's money?
Not in time to save you, it seems.
As the plan of dawdling at dinner is not quite nice, Miss Manners will suggest another. It is only a little nicer, as it does involve pulling a fast one on your relative, but it accomplishes her wishes of playing this game and donating to charity without embarrassing individuals.
Before the auction, several of the older relatives should declare that they have a surprise: Knowing how unreliable auction returns can be, you are giving her a secure check first, representing everyone's contributions, and have brought play money with which to enjoy the fun she has planned. (You may be assured that it will, indeed, be more fun if people can get into a competitive spirit without having to pay for it.)