Dear Alma: Dinner Parties, Dinner Guests and The Kitchen Sink

Dear Alma,

I cannot stand it when guests come over and wash their hands in the kitchen sink instead of going to the bathroom to do it. How do I keep people from doing this in a polite way?

Don’t Splatter Up My Clean Kitchen!

Dear Don’t Splatter Up My Clean Kitchen!,

Hopefully your bathroom is close to the kitchen so it is an easy walk. I would recommend simply asking them to wash up in the bathroom! There is no shame in making a request in your own home. If you feel more comfortable giving a reason, you can simply say you you don’t have towels handy to dry hands in the kitchen. Take note: Don’t have towels visible in the kitchen. Good luck!

Dear Alma,

I go out to dinner often with friends. I have one friend who I like very much but who has an unappealing habit of taking food off my plate with her fork. Why would she do this?? I don’t mind sharing my food but it bothers me to have someone else’s fork on my plate, especially without asking. How should I deal with this?


Dear Skeeved,

You have every right to be skeeved out by this behavior. It is not polite for a variety of reasons, especially if you are very hungry and want all your food! It is proper form, even for close friends, to request a taste, for you to respond and then for you to dole it out and place it on their plate. Who knows why your friend does this. Perhaps it was typical behavior when she was growing up in her family. Maybe she feels very close to you and is treating you as a family member at the dinner table. Whatever her reasons are, we don’t want you to feel uncomfortable dining out with her. Since you like her, it would be a shame for you to decline dinner invitations in the future for fear that she will swipe your salmon.

If you feel comfortable, you can simply say, “let me do that for you” as you cut off a piece of whatever you are eating. You can also take a bit of your dish and offer it to her at the start of the meal, before she even asks, when you have already lifted up a bite. If all else fails, sit on the other end of the table so her hands can’t reach your plate. Good luck!

Dear Alma,

I host a get together every year for my family and one of my family members never tells me if they are going to come until the last minute. If it were just one time that it happened I would not mind so much but it is every single year. I go to a lot of trouble to prepare a nice evening where I plan a menu, set the table nicely and really look forward to everyone being together. It’s also a lot of work!

If it were fear, anxiety or a physical disability that keeps them away I would be more understanding but there is always some trivial excuse. I think it’s because they think something more interesting or fun might come up and they don’t want to commit to our party. For this reason I get really mad when they say they are coming at the last minute. I think it’s very rude and then it puts me in a bad mood for the party I so looked forward to.

I still want them to come but don’t want to be angry. What should I do?


Dear Confused,

Consider yourself validated. Planning a party or even a small dinner party takes time and effort and most of all, love. It may be love of entertaining, love of the idea of the event itself but it is usually love for the people you are planning for. It can very much feel like a slap in the face or as intense as a punch in the stomach if someone dismisses it as something as minor as going to a movie.

I wonder if you are correct about the reason they don’t tell you until the last minute which is why I suggest you have a heartfelt conversation with them. Perhaps tell them that it means a lot to you that they attend and see if that makes a difference. If it keeps happening however and it does ruin your evening, you need to take a step to keep that from happening because it is not fair to you. Perhaps give everyone a deadline for the event RSVP and invite someone else if they miss the deadline. This may feel harsh but maybe they need to miss one event to know that you really mean business. Next time they won’t be so cavalier about their lack of commitment. It’s called “tough love” and sometimes it is called for. I hope it works out!


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  1. Ok this first one has me completely confused – why the heck would anyone care if a guest washed their hands in the kitchen sink, they aren’t relieving themselves!! Talk about weird pet peeves.

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