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Miss Manners: Family’s tempers heat up over mother’s hospitality

Dear Miss Manners: I hope you will help me navigate a nasty family dispute. At family gatherings last summer, the hostess, my dear mother, relegated the party to the outside of the house, and decorated the floor from the back door to the bathroom with a path of towels, to lessen our impact on her home.

The temperatures soared and so did tempers.

Does a hostess have a responsibility to see to the comfort of her guests regardless of the messiness or rambunctiousness of her children and grandchildren? Does a guest ever have an occasion to request greater hospitality – and free access to the more comfortable interior of the home?

I left the last family dinner early (and graciously). My sister stayed another two hours and departed only after browbeating my mother for not allowing us inside. Both are assuming that I will take their side in this argument.

Gentle Reader: A hostess indeed has a responsibility to see to the comfort of her guests, although your qualification – that she do so irrespective of the behavior of the guests -- gives Miss Manners pause. That and the towels.

Miss Manners wonders if it would be worth reviewing the behavior of the rambunctious progeny before admonishing your mother. A bit of moderation all around might prevent your family Christmas gathering from being held in the snow.

Ask callers to ID themselves

Dear Miss Manners: What is the best way to get callers to identify themselves?

I receive many calls from professional organizations that ask for me by first name and fail to identify the caller. I am constantly having to ask, “Who’s calling, please?” Many times this question is ignored, and they again ask is this “name”?

I really want to just hang up at this point or answer with a snarky remark; however, some of these calls are important to me. Do you have a suggestion as to how to inform these businesses that they are being very unprofessional? Also, what is the best way to obtain the caller’s information?

Gentle Reader: There is no need to be shy about your legitimate request to know who is calling, but there is also no cause to be snarky. For those who refuse to identify themselves, Miss Manners recommends a firm, “I’m so sorry, but it was you who called me. To whom am I speaking?”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.