Today’s topic is brought to you by my former colleague, friend and generous host, Audra. It was a very good reminder to me that a comfortable guest is the best one of all. Thank you A!
Q: Guests usually want to help with dishes after meals, but I really prefer that they relax and that I do dishes myself. I just think that guests shouldn’t have to “earn their keep” via chores. I know it’s a natural impulse for people to want to help (and I do offer when I am a guest, but I guess I don’t push it and just try to do small things like keep my room/space tidy, wash glasses as I use them, etc).
This weekend’s guest must have asked me 50 times in two days if she could help with something. I finally had her do little things like carry the dishes to the kitchen and assured her that she didn’t owe me anything. But I sensed a bit of awkwardness in our clash of philosophies. All the offering is gracious and I appreciate the gesture, but still I don’t give in. Is that ok?
A: Perfectly ok. Whether staying for dinner or overnight, guests should follow their host’s lead. As you mentioned, it’s really the gesture that is most appreciated. So your guest is right to ask how they can help (and always should), but yes, after the 49th time, they need to take you at your word.
This question is a very necessary reminder for me, because I think I’m this guest––the one who feels unappreciative if I’m not elbows deep in a sink of dishes. My brother-in-law is the same way. Now it’s practically a game between the two of us as to who can sneak in a speed dish washing round after a dinner.
However, I am also a host like you in that I’d prefer guests to linger in the glow of the dinner aftermath and help by, say, finishing that bottle of wine we just opened. Moments around the table with our favorite people are always fleeting, so hosts and guests alike should both relax and enjoy. The dishes can wait.