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“Dirt On The Neighbors”

Philip Galanes writes “Social Qs,” a modern etiquette column for the New York Times Styles section that I often find way too cloyingly cute for my taste, but nonetheless read every Sunday.

Yesterday, a woman named Patricia — from Westport, Conn. — wrote:

Our new neighbors invited us to a cocktail party. They moved in several months ago. When we arrived, we were shocked at the state of their house: dirty dishes piled in the sink, dust bunnies on the floors and filthy bathrooms. They had set up a drinks table, but all the glasses had fingerprints on them. My impulse was to help tidy up, but my husband told me that would be rude. Your thoughts?

Galanes replied:

You didn’t mention anything about raccoons in the parlor, so I’m guessing this was not a “Grey Gardens” theme party. (No Little Edie-style turbans made out of sweaters?)

Patricia’s neighbor’s kitchen?

I applaud your kind impulse to pitch in, but agree with Hubby on this one. Other people’s homes are their castles, not ours. And they are free to keep them as messy as they please. Unless our hosts ask us to lend a hand (and they would have to beg me), better simply to take a drink and pretend to put your lips to the rim.

Otherwise, your cleaning-lady act may imply filth and give offense. It doesn’t sound as if you are close enough to splash the ice-cold water of truth in your neighbors’ faces. And for the love of hepatitis, wait to use the bathroom until you get home.

I’m not going to comment on the question — or the answer.

But I’m sure “06880” readers will.

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