Dear Ann Cannon • We want to have some people over for dinner but not for the whole stinking evening. What are some good ways to ensure they don’t stay and nobody feels offended?
— Can Only Take So Much
Dear Can Only Take So Much • Ah. You’re describing “The Dinner Guest Who Never Left” syndrome. So, what do you do when you’re aching to put on your pajamas and go to bed, but there are still people chatting away on your living room couch? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Grit your teeth and wait until people go home of their own volition. Even if it’s the next day.
2. Go to bed and leave your guests chatting on the living room couch.
3. Politely announce that you have to get up early the next morning. Thank everybody for coming, help them locate their coats, and walk them to the door.
The third option can work well. Guests often are secretly waiting for someone to break up the party. Rather than feeling offended, your guests might actually be grateful to you.
Here’s another idea: Meet for dinner away from your home. You and your friends will probably wrap things up in two hours max — this isn’t France, after all — and then you can be on your merry way.
Dear Ann Cannon • I have a friend whose husband always cuts her fingernails on our kitchen table when they come to visit us. We like our friends and we want them to feel comfortable in our home, but we don’t want them to feel that comfortable. It bugs me, but it REALLY annoys my husband. How do I tell my friend to not let her husband do that when they’re sitting at our kitchen table? I’m afraid that if I don’t speak up soon, my husband will make an issue out of it.
Dear Bugged • Wow. I’m sort of stuck on the image of a husband cutting his wife’s fingernails anywhere, let alone at a friend’s kitchen table. After breaking my right wrist a few years ago, I asked my husband if he could help me wash my hair. Turns out that having him wash my hair was pretty much like getting water-boarded, which is why I’m having a hard time imagining any husband being super useful on the personal grooming front.
But that’s my issue. So let’s focus on your issue instead.
What can you do? Talking to your friend is certainly an option, although saying “Please don’t let your husband cut your fingernails at our kitchen table” feels like one of those things you shouldn’t have to say to another human being in this life, right? Ask yourself how much damage — if any — will be done to your relationship if you speak frankly about the situation with your friend. Then decide if the potential risk is worth it. If it is, talk to her. If not, keep quiet and find a way to tolerate this behavior.
Dear Ann Cannon • What can I do when I feel that someone close to me — a family member in this case — doesn’t like me?
Dear Hurt • First, I’m sorry. Feeling this way stinks. You don’t provide a lot of details, so my response may not be very helpful. But let me ask you this: What makes you think this person doesn’t like you? Can you point to specific examples? Does this person treat you differently than he or she treats others in your circle? Could it just be that this person isn’t particularly warm in general and that you’re reading more into his or her actions than you should? Here’s another question: What are your feelings about this family member? Is it possible that you’re unconsciously projecting your own negative feelings onto him or her?
You can always talk to this person about your perceptions, of course. Maybe you could say this in a neutral tone: “I’m wondering if there’s something I’ve said or done that’s offended you.” This kind of conversation may provide you, as well as your family member, with some useful clarity. Be aware that you may also find out more than you want to know, so be certain you really want to go there before asking.