Dear Miss Manners: Every other year, my husband and I travel to spend the holidays with the family.
His father has a large house which is now an “empty nest” as all the siblings have grown up and moved out. My FIL insists that we stay at his house instead of hotel during these trips.
The problem is that their house has become a childhood museum for my husband and his brothers. Their bedrooms have been left untouched.
My husband’s childhood bedroom is in the basement and has nothing but twin beds, mesh and a thick layer of dust. The sheets are never washed when we arrive, and the room is cold, dirty, and away from the nearest bathroom (like in the basement, up-stairs, away from the whole house—again).
We’ve tried to claim that we’re not paying for our hotel room (it’s free with our credit card points!) but my FIL is a smart person and feels bad when we refuse , insisting on knowing why we wouldn’t be with him.
How can we explain without hurting his feelings? We’ve considered spending a few days on our next visit, deep cleaning the room and bringing a queen-size inflatable bed and nice sheets, but that doesn’t solve the problem of rooms in a cold basement, away from spiders and bathrooms.
Gentle Reader: Being among the family does not mean postponing common courtesy. As your host, your father-in-law should expect what will comfort him when you meet him.
But Miss Manners recognizes that there are times when even an impersonal chain hotel can seem more like a luxury than a reminiscent room, and the last time was the mid-1980s—spiders or not.
Your husband may remember from those years that there was some tolerance among parents for not always keeping their room neat and tidy. This is the time to give in return for that tolerance and care, a burden that you carried in the family at the time of marriage. (Your husband will take revenge when you visit your family.)
Talk to your father-in-law (or, better, talk to your husband) about what minimum upgrades are needed, and help him build them, if necessary. This will avoid the inherent rudeness of not being with him and give you something to talk about.
Dear Miss Manners: If someone calls me or writes an email asking me to call them back, but it’s someone I don’t want to talk to, am I obligated to return their call out of courtesy?
Gentle Reader: It depends who is calling or writing. A spouse, a boss, a friend, a family member, a business associate or even a social acquaintance can expect such a request to be honored, though not with the same enthusiasm.
That you don’t want to call that person back isn’t an excuse enough – unless it’s someone you broke up with, or want to break up with.
Miss Manners recommends that sellers – and those in the above categories who use inappropriate tone of voice or set inappropriate terms – do not wait by phone, as such requests do not need to be honored.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website at www.missmanners.com; to her email, Dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or via postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMichael Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.