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CINDERELLY

A truly fastidious question:

When I have people over for dinner, or any entertaining, I try to clean as I go.  After dinner, I like to wash and put away the dishes…otherwise they just sit out.  My kitchen is open to the living room and dining room, so leaving them out would look chaotic.  Anyway, a few weeks ago a friend of mine got in a snit because I wouldn’t just “leave it” and “hang out.”  Easy for them to say!  By the time they leave at 10 or 11, I’ll be exhausted, tipsy, and have a filthy kitchen.  Is it rude to clean up after dinner?  Does it matter how long it takes?

LISTEN:

Where are your servants during all this?  I’m assuming you wouldn’t give them all the day off at the same time.  If the maid is off, the butler can serve and clear the table, and I’m sure your chauffeur would do the dishes if he thought his job depended on it.

Of course, you may not have a household staff, which is shocking enough, but the real moral lapse here is your question of timing.

Would it be less rude if it took less time?  I don’t know – if I was to key your car casually as I was walking by it, would it be less illegal if I took my time and really enjoyed it?  Same thing with etiquette.  If it’s rude for a second, it’s rude for half an hour.  Try this with farting, burping or interrupting someone as they speak.  *shiver*  All these are unmentionable and unpardonable sins.

Now, let’s get back to your cleaning.

No, it’s not rude to clean up after dinner.  You can file that under “preparing your house for guests” and one can hardly call a trashed kitchen prepared or pleasant.  This conflicts with wanting your guests to feel comfortable, which this one surely isn’t – they said as much themselves.

But you have a trump card, which is that it is unconscionable to correct someone’s behavior, least of all an adult, least of all someone in their own home.

So now that you know that cleaning up after dinner makes this person uncomfortable, you must now never invite them to any event at your home at which you are not a) fully staffed or b) fully finished with all possible chores.  That means no refreshments served unless they’re in disposable containers, or ones you can hastily put in the dishwasher as soon as they’ve been emptied.  I see lots of fast-food suppers in your future with this most deserving friend.

The rest of them can sit around after more civilized events and keep you company while you scrub up.  It might even occur to them to lend a hand so you can all “hang out,” as you say, once everything is tidy.

I doubt anyone is going to miss a sulking guest.

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