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It's her house, so it's her rules

December 15, 2009

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.

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." 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.

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."

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).

How should this situation best be handled to maintain the friendship but to awaken my friend that it is 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 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.

Send questions to Amy Dickinson by e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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