On Thanksgiving with my family or whenever my husband and I host dinners at our house, only the women help clear the dirty dishes off the table. I often ask that no one help us, but people – I mean women – always help. I make sure my husband gets involved; our children are still too young. But it annoys me that my father, brother, and other husbands in our community (where most women work outside the home) still see cooking and cleaning as women’s work. I suppose you will tell me that I can only ask my husband for help. Is there anything else I can do?
Well, you guessed it wrong, Rachel! However, before I get to your question, let me preempt the objections of men who take equal (or more) responsibility for household chores and etiquettes who think that no guest should lift a finger: the world is huge. Many male partners cook and clean, and many guests are programmed to help, no matter how their hosts tell them not to.
However, I have often witnessed the imbalance you describe, whether it be cooking, cleaning, or taking care of children. Women tend to work while many men sit and watch. I see no reason for you to be silent about the inequality in your own home, even among guests who have chosen the Ozzy and Harriet model for their relationship.
Decades ago, my mom announced at our Thanksgiving table, “In gratitude for all the work women do, men will now clean up.” She and the other women remained seated, while the men got to work—quite merrily, as far as I remember. (If you prefer, tailor your request to people who didn’t help with cooking.) It’s a lighter touch than gender role speeches, but it addresses the issue you’re raising and sets a good example for your young children.
When gift-giving becomes ungrateful
I have two nieces in their 20s. Over the past few years, there have been many occasions for giving them gifts: graduations, showers, weddings and the birth of a child. None of them know how to accept gifts, and this is starting to annoy me. I began to ask (by SMS) if they received my gift, and then they thank me. There is rarely an opportunity to sit down and discuss the importance of gratitude. Any suggestions?
Observation: I have never received a letter from a young person complaining about the lack of a gift, but I am drowning in emails from givers who are offended or annoyed by the inability of young recipients to accept a gift on their own. To me, this is an argument for a course correction (unless you like feeling bad).
Your nieces should, of course, thank you, but I can’t. If they are indifferent to you and your gifts, or if your real relationship is with their parents and grandparents—as is often the case—stop giving. If you don’t feel close enough to your nieces to directly ask them what you want them to do, stop as well. Giving more gifts is not the answer, and you won’t get anywhere by complaining to third parties. Consider greeting cards if you can’t resist turkey.
How to regain the right to consult
My wife thinks (correctly) that I give her too much “useful” advice, like how to load the dishwasher or avoid grammatical errors. I’m trying to stop. But lately she’s been playing games on her phone when we’re talking to other couples. She turns her whole body to hide her actions, but it looks so rude! I refrained from saying anything given our issue with the council, but can I say something this time?
Let me see if I’m qualified to do so: you’ve overused the power of “helpful advice” – also known as criticism – to such an extent that you’ve now enlisted the support of advice columns to provide it to you. I agree that fiddling with your phones while talking is indecent, but I think the endless stream of spousal criticism is even worse. (This can undermine your partner’s self-esteem.)
Wait until you’ve gone a whole week without picking on your wife’s behavior – start now! — and then ask her to put her phone away in meetings out of respect for your friends. A win-win!
Take that doggy bag to go
Walking around my residential area with my cute German Shepherd, is it ok to toss sealed poop bags into other people’s trash cans waiting to be picked up?
This dog lover will tell you a firm no. In my area, trash cans are private. Some people may not mind you tossing them in a poop bag, depending on your experience with tying them up, but dumping feces on someone’s private property without permission is a pretty big offense.
Also, my garbage company asks that we put all the garbage in large plastic bags that are tied. (Individual bags of feces may leak or open and create a mess.) If there are no municipal trash cans on your itinerary, take the bags of feces home and dispose of them there.
If you need help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook, or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.