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Dead fish and houseguests

We have a very warm and close relationship with our college-age children and have always enjoyed hosting their friends in our home, making certain they feel comfortable, well-fed, and welcome.

Over this past year my son has brought his girlfriend home to visit several times for long weekends. Not once has she expressed to us a word of appreciation for the accommodations, interest in us or our home, curiosity about the community, or gratitude for the hospitality. When leaving she offers a simple, non-effusive “thanks” but, with the exception of one brief email, we have never even received a written note.

We love our son. And he may love her. But we are not eager to clean, shop, cook and host this young woman again. If he wants to bring her home for Thanksgiving or Christmas what do you suggest we tell him or do?

-- No More Sleeping in Seattle
Aunt Dandelion replies:

The old saying goes, “Dead fish and houseguests both start to stink in three days.” Aunt Dandelion can well understand why you don’t want this particular dead fish to flop around in your house any more.

You have three possible ways in which to address this problem.

First, speak to your son. Let him know that you do not appreciate his girlfriend’s apathy and rudeness (sins of omission in this case). You can honestly tell him that you would rather she did not stay with you any more unless she can put on her party manners. With luck, he will step up and help her see the light.

Second, if you do permit her to come again, give her household chores, as her frequent visits make her “almost part of the family.” Let your son and the girlfriend know that they will be in charge of making breakfasts or dinners, cleaning the kitchen after meals, tidying the bedrooms and vacuuming. This puts her on notice that she can no longer be a passive lay-about, but is expected to be an active participant in the household. Naturally, you will praise her cooking to the skies and thank her effusively for her efforts. Maybe she will take the hint.

Finally, ask her what excites her. Since she is presumably important to your son, take the time to probe her and try to meet her halfway. She may brighten up when you turn the focus onto her and join in the things she likes.

If these options fail, Aunt Dandelion recommends you ask your son to leave her behind on future trips. Explain that it is too much work for you to undertake for an unappreciative guest.

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