Ask Amy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 5:18am

DEAR AMY: During the holiday season I am expecting two people from out of town to stop by and I know they will want to spend the night at my house.

They are in their 80s.

Should I be expected to let them share a bedroom in my home even though they are not married?

I have plenty of room, but they certainly are not without funds to pay for a hotel.

What people do in their own home is their business, but I wouldn't even allow my own children to sleep with their significant others when they were not married.

The holidays are upon us, and I'm sure others would like to know how to handle this situation.

These people are not invited guests; they will be passing through on their way to and from a visit with other family members.

I don't want to offend them, but I don't lower my moral standards, even for relatives.

What should I do?

— Worried Relative

DEAR WORRIED: It is obvious that you don't want to offer this elderly couple a "room at the inn" while they're passing through. This is not quite the most charitable interpretation of the Christmas story.

Even though I find your position a little silly, it is your home and it is your right to impose your standards on houseguests.

You can say, "I'm not able to offer you a room for the night, but I'd be happy to suggest a local hotel and would like to see you for dinner if you're free."

If you feel forced to offer shelter, you can say to them what you would say to a younger couple staying in your home: "I don't allow unmarried couples to sleep together at my house, so I'll put you in separate rooms while you're here."


DEAR AMY: I am a professional artist, and my paintings usually sell for $500 to $5,000.

Recently, a longtime friend of mine moved into a beautiful penthouse apartment (which cost more than $3 million!) and asked me to "paint a picture" that would fit in with the decor.

She said she would gladly "reimburse" me for "materials" — by which I assume she meant a few dollars' worth of paint and brushes.

I was so flabbergasted by this amazingly insensitive request that I didn't know how to respond.

My wife said I should have said that I am working on a number of commissions — i.e., work for pay — and didn't really have time to do something for her (this isn't true).

I felt this was somewhat disingenuous.

How should this situation best be handled to maintain the friendship but to awaken my friend's brain to the fact that it is extremely uncool to force a friend to donate a professional or creative service?

— Jay on Long Island, N.Y.

DEAR JAY: There is no reason to lie when telling the truth might net you a nice commission.

When friends inquire about a professional service you offer, it is best to handle the query with professional enthusiasm. You can tell this person you'd like to work on something for her space. Offer to e-mail her some photos of other pieces you've done and a price list for this type of commission. If she thinks that paying for brushes and paint is sufficient, you'll just have to educate her about how you do things.

You are the person who decides the value of your work. Your potential clients can choose whether to pay the price you set. Your friend might want to negotiate a lower price — and that's her right (and your right to accept or decline the price).

If she is a person of means and you do a wonderful job, she may want you to do more work for her — and recommend your work to others.


DEAR AMY: I agree with "Sober," the person who wrote to you saying that no responsible baby sitter would have a drink of wine while baby-sitting. If grandparents want to indulge in a glass of wine in the evening, they should choose a night when they aren't responsible for their grandchild's welfare.

— Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: Readers are divided on this question. Some agree with my friend Julia who says, half-seriously, that a glass of wine makes her a better mommy.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles

8 Comments on this post:

By: sidneyames on 12/15/09 at 9:44

Amy said "Even though I find your position a little silly, it is your home and it is your right to impose your standards on houseguests." And she said to say: "I don't allow unmarried couples to sleep together at my house, so I'll put you in separate rooms while you're here."

Well, I disagree with you Amy. Maintaining one's moral values is not a "little silly" as you suggest. It is admirable.

So, the lady should do this: Have 2 rooms ready. Take the gentleman to his room and say "Bob here's your room" and then "Mary, I'll show you yours". If they question this arrangement, just say the obvious: "I'd rather not have unmarried people sleeping in the same room and I'd appreciate you respecting my families' position on this matter, thank you".

If they don't cooperate, they are not welcome back. My aunt came to a wedding with her ex-husband whom she was courting again. My mother said "well, they WERE married" to which my 19 year old sister and I said "separate rooms. THEY are NOT married now".

Mother stuck by her two young daughters' values.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/15/09 at 10:41

DEAR WORRIED: girl are you living in the 17th century or what? Smug and silly would be my words of choice. Get over it and come into this century girlfriend. Marriage can be defined by love, commitment, and sharing and not by some piece of paper issued by the court. It is silly and I personally wouldn't have someone with those views in my circle of friends or acquaintances.

By: sidneyames on 12/15/09 at 11:50

New YOrker 1, define it as you say by "commitment, sharing and not by the piece of paper. Then live together with no contract and have one party die. The results is a legal nightmare, especically if one remaining has not worked, but dedicated their life to "stay at home" role. AND if any amount of money or property is at stake. Then "live in's get left out". It's just a fact and the old "common law marriage" has rules for proof.

By: kennyj on 12/15/09 at 1:41

There are considerations for individuals this age. It may be cheaper, or more profitable) for them to live together as opposed to marrying. Social Security, Medicare, Medicade, etc. have to be taken into consideration. I'm 67 now, but never have had a problem with unmarried couples cohabitating, it's the 21st Century, not the 19th.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/15/09 at 3:19

You can buy a home together without being legally married. You can also have that person as your primary beneficiary on insurance polices, investment accounts,etc without marriage. You could also put that person in your Will or Living Will, etc. In essence, there are ways of been protected without being legally married.

By: bnakat on 12/15/09 at 5:23

(1) In this postmodern era where many observe no objective standards, it is encouraging to see that "Worried" has scruples. Why she would seek validation from Amy is unknown. Amy is not noted as a bastion for morals or ethics.
(2) Amy's sarcasm re "room at the inn" is inane. Actually, she treats the whole matter with obvious disdain.
(3) The posters, except for sidney, exemplify the postmodernism mentioned above.
(4) Hats off to you sidney for defending your principles. You take a lot of flak from several on the LTE board, but you always hold your own, even in the face of relentless ridicule.
(5) Those who view marriage as merely a paper agreement fail to grasp its origin and intent. True marriage retains its place as the bedrock of the family in any century. Modern mores that denigrate the sacred contract reflect unfavorably on society, not marriage.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/15/09 at 6:14

I don't think two people in love and committed to one another but choose not to get married is a lack of morals or ethics, but more so reality in the times we live in. If you take a look at the marriage statistics, you'll find your answer there.

By: sidneyames on 12/16/09 at 8:12

NO, new yorker, it is a lack of common sense. I do not speak from "inexperience". I waived my moral principals to "live in" because I told God that I could handle my life better than He could. Yep. I done it up right. AFter 3.9 years, my "so-called" live in husband got killed in a major disaster. His family, including his ex-wife swoped in. Told me to leave the home I occupied for 3.9 years. Said I was his "live in" house keeper, even though I was on his medical policy till I died or "remarried". Funny. I was to have medical insurance till I remarried, but "not married" when it came to filing for a 21 million dollar wrongful death suit. Judge said I was a CONCUBINE. So I coined this: Can Our Neglect Cause Unnecessary Battles In Negotiating Equity? And you'd better believe NY1 that "equity" is important when you're being tossed to the curb after dedicating any number of years to a relationship. I know women who got kicked to the curb after 20 years. Marriage, though distasteful to you, is a blessing to others. I sure wish I had the legal contract from the State and the blessing from God. It's been 25 years on Dec. 19th and the pain still hurts. The humiliation and the saddness that his family turned on me for money.