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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Homework excuse will keep child at bay

Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a university student living in a semi-detached house with several other students. The couple living in the other half of the house have two small children, who they allow to play on our driveway and lawn constantly (which isn’t a big deal).

However, their 6-year-old has developed a habit of coming up to our front door (which is glass and looks directly into our living room) and asking us to play with her. Yesterday, she went so far as to open it, stick her head into our house, and ask me what I was doing. She did this several times within an hour.

The parents are aware of their daughter’s behavior and seem to be under the impression that since we’re students, this is somehow appropriate. Clearly, the little girl means no harm, but it would be nice to be able to sit in our living room after she comes home from school without being interrupted several times.

I know that correcting the manners of others is rude, but how can we handle the situation in a way that is polite and kind to the little girl but that might discourage this behavior?

GENTLE READER: A little girl of Miss Manners’ acquaintance, who actually lived in university quarters – her parents were the resident faculty – used to speak yearningly of the day she would have homework. It seemed an odd wish until one understood how she spent her afternoons.

Upon returning from kindergarten, she would approach whichever students were hanging around. As she was rather a pet of theirs, they would play with her for a short time. When they got bored, they would excuse themselves, each always saying, “I have to go do my homework.”

So the little girl came to believe that homework was something even more entertaining than playing. Not a bad lesson.

You should tell your little neighbor (and you will have to do this more than once, so you should also tell her parents) that you like her very much, but you rarely have time to play because you all have a tremendous amount of homework. Because you have a glass door, you will also have to explain that sometimes homework requires talking things over or just thinking, and no, the football game in the background does not interfere with your concentration.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it not redundant to say “Please RSVP” since the French “please” is already extant in the acronym? Should not one just say “RSVP to (contact)”?

GENTLE READER: Yes, but considering how cavalierly (which is to say rudely) people treat invitations nowadays, Miss Manners can hardly blame the hosts for pleading. She would not be surprised to see them on their knees saying, “Pretty please.”

You should know that there are people who claim not to understand the entire phrase. For clarity, and also for patriotic reasons, Miss Manners prefers using “Please respond to …” or, in the case of formal invitations, “The favor of a reply is requested.”

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@united, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
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