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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Best Guest Ever + More

Thursday, August 04, 2016


Whether you're family or friend, how to be the best houseguest these last days of summer and what to say to an ugly parent about their pretty baby. Top questions to Didi Lorillard this week.

What to say about a beautiful baby

Q.  There is nothing pretty about my very good friend Casey. Neither her name, face, skin, body, nor hair are attractive. Her house is the ugliest house in our neighborhood. Even her car is ugly. She does not have great taste in what she wears, how she decorates her house, or even her choice of a career or mate. However, she does have a beautiful baby. Wherever she goes, people rave about her baby. That's the problem. People - including Casey - can't believe she has such a beautiful baby. Strangers stop and stare in amazement saying, "Wow, what a beautiful child," as though wondering how such a conventionally un-pretty woman could possibly have such a beautiful baby. What should we be saying to Casey instead?   L.G., Baltimore, MD

A. Most everybody loves a baby and even when the baby isn't so pretty or handsome we tend to gush about its looks by predicting that she looks intelligent and he looks like a football player or 'bruiser.' Soon there will be other ways to praise the parents and encourage the child when you see him or her riding their scooter, tossing a basketball through the hoop or speaking in sentences. Look for other words to express your approval and admiration.

Apparently, the hormone oxytocin, produced by the hypothalamus gland (the size of an almond, it connects the brain stem that links the nervous system to the endocrine), increases good feelings in adults when they interact with or even see a baby. Instead of dwelling on the baby's attractiveness, say something such as, "She looks so intelligent (or alert)," take the emphasis off of how handsome the child is, because looks aren't everything. The most successful people aren't necessarily the best looking.

Whether or not you are the parent, take another approach by playing with the child, which will help to develop the skills needed for a healthy social life. Try being playful. Even if it is "peek-a-boo, I see you," when staring into the stroller of an alert baby.  


How to be the best houseguest

Q. What are the do's and don'ts of being a good houseguest these days?  J.P., Greenwich, CT

A.  The best houseguest doesn't make his bed before asking his host "How should I leave the bed?" Nobody wants to sleep in your once delightfully dewey sexually scented sheets. Take them off, take them all off, then loosely fold them and either leave them at the foot of your unmade bed or deposit them into the laundry basket. Especially if you have children in tow, empty your wastebaskets of any soiled diapers, sticky popsicle wrappings, and used dental floss, etc. The exception here is when the houseguests are either family or invalided in some capacity.

The host gift/present isn't your most important responsibility. Making the cleanup after your departure not torturous for your host is key for continuing the relationship. Showing up at the door with anything more than a smug expression and hug isn't necessary, if you're determined to pitch in and make yourself useful - or at the very least amusing.

Arriving with a book, game, flowers, chocolates, cheese, or a bottle of wine is expected, but you can get away with being a houseguest extraordinaire by pitching in with anything from cooking, weeding, resetting a laptop, walking the dog, taking out the garbage, or simply emptying the dishwasher or setting the table.

The best thing you can say is not, "Thank you for inviting me," but "Let me know what I can do to help," and then make suggestions ... Invite your host(s) out to at least one of the following: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks at their local pub. Or offer to have pizza delivered.

Before you arrive, communicate with your host about your arrival and departure timeframe so your host can make plans. At that time ask, "Is there anything I can bring that you don't have locally, such as .........?"

Part of that conversation should include a question about whether or not you can bring your beloved dog or cat. And if not, find a recommendation for a respected kennel nearby. Are you bringing a child who will need a babysitter or childcare while you're visiting? Then the information to set that up should be put in motion before you arrive.

When a guest has dietary concerns meaning you cannot eat certain foods such as nuts, gluten, dairy, meat, or shellfish, these restrictions should be casually mentioned. Don't make a big deal of your stipulations, because you want to fit in by being a self-sustaining guest - not a needy one. If, unbeknownst to you, your host is planning a lobster bake, he needs to be forewarned to provide you with a delicious alternative.

Another question to your host when you're finding out what's in store for you on your visit is dress code. Are there any dress code restrictions: jacket & tie, jackets & dresses, no jeans, no ties, etc. Will you need all white attire to play tennis? Can you rent golf clubs, a bike, surfboard, or kayak?

You would no more bring an unannounced date with you than leave your room untidy. No wet towels on the carpet creating mold, because you've loosely folded them and left them with your sheets and pillow cases.

Remember that your host is not the owner of a B&B. Even if you're family, your family wants to be respected - so spend quality time with them. Ask your hosts to join you on one of your walks, or invite them to share a meal with your friends, whom you may also be seeing.

A good guest should make sure to give his hosts some time off while he's visiting. Invent a trip or an errand, anything that will give your hosts a chance to catch their breath.

When you get home, send a grateful recap in your medium whether it is a text, email, or thank-you note: "You made my summer, thank you very much for a wonderful weekend of memories." Mention the flowers thoughtfully placed on your night table, along with books you've been trying to find time to read. 


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi." If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.


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