DEAR MISS MANNERS: This weekend, my sister and I invited a friend who has had a bad year to our home for some pampering. The invitation was issued a while back, and last week we were both ill. By Thursday we were feeling better but we had been unable to thoroughly clean. We decided not to cancel the weekend and straightened as best we could.
My friend advised she would arrive Friday evening, so I rushed home before 4 to find she was already waiting for me. I did not have time to sweep out her room or change her sheets (I had counted on an hour to put on the finishing touches). I explained what had happened, started straightening her room while she was in the bathroom and was greeted with "the floor is a little messy, can I have a broom?"
My friend is recovering from cancer and was just fired from her job -- they fired her entire division in a cost-saving move, so we had planned to pay for all of her entertainment. We paid for her meals, for her fees into a quilting show and for champagne to cheer her.
Over the course of the weekend she became more and more outspoken. She said something to my sister about the state of the bedrooms (we had closed off access to them because, again, we had not had time to really clean).
On Sunday morning, while I was rushing to make a full breakfast, I could not find a spatula. We have a small kitchen that is in the process of being remodeled and things go astray. She said, "If you would clean more often, you might be able to find one."
Shortly after, at breakfast, she ended the visit with, "Please don't take this the wrong way, but I could never bring my mother here. She is very neat and judges people by their homes. I can just hear her saying 'They don't make their beds... '"
I am afraid I lost my temper. I excused myself, went to mutter in the kitchen, and generally was frigidly polite for the weekend. My sister, who was also offended by this time, started to explain, more pointedly, what occurred, but I am afraid I interrupted her with "We do not owe an explanation."
We ushered our guest out much sooner than planned by pointedly asking her how long the trip to New Hampshire would take her and telling her where the best gas prices were to be had.
I think she was offended. My question is this: Do I owe her an apology for the speed with which the weekend ended? And how much should I grovel for having interrupted my sister?
I have always believed that if a sentence begins with "Please don't take this the wrong way" it probably should not be uttered.
GENTLE READER: Make that "definitely" instead of "probably." And count your erstwhile friend's insult as double because she violated her obligation as your guest as well as that of being a friend.
Etiquette does not require you to accept being insulted in your own house. Nor does it allow you to insult your guest, and Miss Manners congratulates you for getting around that by confining yourself to a frigid tone and assistance with transportation.
As to whether you insulted your sister by interrupting her, you must ask your sister. Miss Manners' guess is that she was grateful for your help.