> For a bachelorette party, we are planning on taking the bride out for dinner and drinks, and then getting a hotel room. The maid of honor just informed us that she’s planning on bringing her newborn, and she will be sleeping in the same room. She asked us if anyone objects. I do. How should I respond?
C.M. / Bellevue, Washington
With a cheerful and utterly believable lie, that’s how, unless you can open your heart a bit so that a lie isn’t necessary. What’s the worst that can happen? The baby keeps everyone up all night. If you’re so creaky that a good night’s sleep is more important than helping friends celebrate a gorgeous moment of growth, why even attend a bachelorette party? And if you’d rather exile a new mother from your gathering than have to — what? See her nursing? Smell something unpleasant? — you might want to rethink your concept of female solidarity.
Or maybe you aren’t a cranky misogynist at all, just someone who’s inexperienced with babies and freaked out at the notion of partying with one. I’ve been there. But newborns truly aren’t that disruptive. They don’t even understand language yet, so the conversation can get as appropriately inappropriate as bachelorette party talk should. Really, C.M., there’s nothing to worry about.
> My niece visits every summer. She used to come for five days, then a week, now it is up to 10 days. She is very high-maintenance, and though I really love her, she stays too long. How can I nicely get her to shorten her visit?
M.R. / Portsmouth, New Hampshire
That’s not how having houseguests works, M.R. They don’t inform you of the length of their visit; you tell them how long they are invited for. Call or e-mail your niece now to discuss dates for AuntFest ’13 and offer dates that work for you. Don’t apologize for proposing a Thursday-to-Tuesday visit. If your niece is bold enough to make a counteroffer, simply say, “That’s just not going to work this summer,’’ and then change the topic to all the exciting things you have planned for her visit: Pedicures! Outdoor Shakespeare! Skeet shooting! Repeat as necessary. Immediate problem solved.
Now let’s step back and look at your entire letter. What exactly does “high-maintenance’’ mean? Does your niece have legitimate special needs? Or do you feel as if you have to entertain and cater to her constantly? If you can’t control access to your own home, you probably aren’t terribly assertive about what goes on in it, either. Work on that. Setting boundaries with house-
guests and asking them to pitch in to help make their stay a pleasant one is not at all unreasonable. Check out Peggy Post or Judith Martin’s etiquette compendiums for specifics on host-guest courtesies that will be useful to your situation. Vague resolutions to “be more assertive’’ are much harder to keep than specific ones like “Show niece Keurig machine and tell her she is on her own for breakfast.’’
You and your niece will either become much better and more honest friends as a result of a bit more spine on your part, or else she will be so annoyed at not having Auntie at her beck and call that you won’t have to worry about overlong visits anymore.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.