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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Itsy bitsy spider quietly makes a house call

Judith Martin The Spokesman-Review

Dear Miss Manners: My question is what is the proper way to inform someone they have a spider in their hair?

At an open house at my place of business to celebrate our 20th anniversary, one of our clients had a spider in her hair. This client is an older woman, who is not in the best of health. No one was sure how to broach the subject, since we didn’t want to overtly startle her or embarrass her. What should we have done?

Gentle Reader: So what did you do? Stare into her hair, waiting to see if the spider would spin her a hairnet?

Oh, yes, you did. Miss Manners admires your fortitude in not screaming “Eeeek!” or plunging your hands into the lady’s hair unannounced. But leaving her with a resident spider was not a happy solution.

What you should have done was to say quietly, “I think I see something that has fallen into your hair. May I get it out for you, or would you prefer to go and take care of it?”

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I live in south Florida and lately have had uninvited guests who announce their arrival just days before a prolonged stay. My husband is not retired, and I work out of the home, and these “guests,” although they say not to go out of our way, really do expect us to do some amount of entertaining.

They offer no help with any household chores, nor do they offer to buy us dinner or pay for a movie or any other assistance. Since they don’t rent a car, we must pick them up at the airport and drive anyplace we go. After five weeks of this kind of visitor, I confess that I am burned out and want the privacy of my own home back.

My husband doesn’t seem to mind so much, but that is because he works long hours and is not around them like I am.

If they could reciprocate the hospitality, it might be different, but they either cannot or choose not to invite us to spend an equal amount of time at their home up north.

Please, you always seem to have the correct words to handle this type of situation. What can we say to these people to discourage them the next time they call announcing their arrival?

Gentle Reader: “Why, what a coincidence! We were just leaving to go and visit you.”

Miss Manners promises you that would stop them dead. But if you don’t want to go that far, there are a number of other things you could say at any stage of this takeover: “I’m so sorry, we won’t be able to have you here now” or “Why don’t you rent a car at the airport, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to pick you up, and that way, you’ll be able to get around town during your visit” or “Sorry, I’m exhausted and I haven’t done a thing about dinner tonight.”

However, if you have misled Miss Manners, she may be misdirecting you. Are these people, by any chance, your husband’s family? In that case, it is he to whom you should be setting limits.

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