Need your advice. Friend won't stop helping with the dishes.

megansgramNovember 26, 2007

It happened again at Thanksgiving. I have a dear friend whom I invite to all my family functions. She starts cleaning up the dishes the minute SHE is finished eating. When we are at her house, that's her choice, but at my house it drives me crazy. I have tried asking her nicely to please let me take care of it, but she must think I am just being polite. On Thanksgiving, she took MY plate before I was even done--in MY house. Please, how do I get her to stop?

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Maybe she has some uncontrollable compulsion. I can't sit at a table after eating, with my plate sitting in front of me. Doesn't bother me for it to be dirty siting on the counter till tomorrow, just can't have it in front of me.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 10:36PM
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If she is truly a dear friend, she will stop doing it after you tell her that it drives you crazy. If she continues to do something that she knows will annoy you, then she's not a dear friend and you can stop inviting her to your family functions. Your house, your rules.

Is she shy? She may do it to allow you to spend more time with your family. I'll admit, I'm a cleaner-upper at dinner parties, too. I do it because I'm not very good at small talk. I usually jump in to *help* when the hostess starts to clear. Then I'll say "girl, relax and enjoy your guests. You deserve a break after putting together such a wonderful spread!" Sometimes it works. Sometimes the hostess will not allow it and I'm forced to be sociable at a social gathering LOL.

At my own house? I'll clear the table, but I don't clean up while my guests are here. Guests (except my sister) aren't allowed to use my new sink or dishwasher. They can play with the TapMaster because it's cool, but no washing dishes during my party!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 3:19AM
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Oooooohhhh I hate that. I can't stand having someone else do my dishes. I actually enjoy the process, but I leave for after everyone has gone or for the next morning. It's very off-putting for me, and would make me nuts if someone tried to do it before I was even finished eating!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 10:54AM
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What an inconsiderate thing to do, and it's disrespectful to you. I would have grabbed my plate back from her.

You may need to take her aside when she's not a guest and tell her that her behavior in your home, is not appropriate, and that next time you won't be nice about it. Otherwise, you can stop inviting her.

My ex-MIL was like that, INSISTING that I clear the table and start washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen NOW. I finally told her that I don't entertain that way, that the dishes would keep until my guests were gone, and escorted her from the kitchen. It drove her nuts, I could see her fidget and glance at the kitchen, but she managed to keep herself out of the kitchen, and I never had a problem with her again.

I'm not an obsessive table clearer, I'm happy enjoying the conversation with my family and friends, and quietly sliding plates around and stacking them so the table is less cluttered. When there's a lull, I'll take stuff to the kitchen.

If I'm a guest, I'll offer to help with any serving and clean up, but if the hostess says no, I respect that. Hopefully, friends don't have guests over to help with the prep and clean up. If I was "expected" to help, I would expect to be paid.

Maybe you should offer to pay her, and then you can set the parameters for her help - no clearing the table until the last guest has finished eating, for example.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 11:37PM
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Ditto Momj47. If someone jumps up to clear then others feel they should pitch in and the next thing you know you've lost control and the party has lost its punch ; people begin to depart much earlier than if you'd all remained at the table, happily ignoring dishes and chatting. Hope you won't mind my adding my personal pet peeve. Once upon a time it was understood by most hosts and restaurant staff ( at better restaurants) that plates at the table were not to be removed while any one dinner was still eating. Cannot count the times I've sat there looking silly as the only one with a plate in front of her. I am a slower eater, though not crazy slow...fall about 5 minutes behind. I resent being made to feel foolish more than I miss the remainder of my meal. Usually when dining out someone at our table will stop the waiter, but often we are too engrossed in our conversation to notice until too late. Oh well. thanks for letting me steal the thread a teeny bit to vent.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 12:18AM
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Does your friend enjoy being in the company of many people? Or is she a one-on-one kind of friend? My son's previous girlfriend used to clear everything off the table as soon as she was finished eating. She never offered to help clean up once the dishes were in the kitchen, though. I finally realized she just wanted our family time to be over so she could have my son to herself. Thank goodness she is history!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 6:30PM
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Please send your friend to my house, I'm having 12 for lunch tomorrow.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 2:15PM
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I don't mind if everyone is finished. There are some in my family now (mainly dh) who abhor sitting around the table when the meal is long over. He just hates it and I never realized that not everyone did this, as it was a custom in my family. I have to admit that I don't much care for it anymore, either! I don't know why. Probably because it's now my kitchen and dishes and I'm horrible as a hostess--I simply can't relax.

I think for some people it's a way of saying they're uncomfortable. Others have basically said the same thing above. I would consider it very rude to go to someone else's home and start clearing up, though, before the host/hostess indicated it was time. If there are any guests who are not part of the "inner sanctum," then I think it's best to move the party away from the table after everyone is done to try and make sure no one feels uncomfortable.

But since your friend is ready to make you finish regardless of how you feel about it, I think you're going to have to tell her point-blank how much it upsets you. If she realizes it is impacting the friendship, hopefully she'll stop. If she tells you she really can't bear to sit any longer, I don't know what to say. I personally feel that too many people have never learned to cultivate courtesy for others and I don't think I'd accept that excuse.

Finally, I always do cleanup once my guests have left the table. Things like silver and crystal that have to be handwashed can wait until everyone leaves, but I can't let mounds of dirty dishes sit around all night. I just can't.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 7:00PM
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I had a very good friend that told me early on not to help with any clean-up. When at her home I was the guest, when she was at mine, she was the guest. She never allowed her guests to clean-up. Knowing this was our deal, neither of us felt guilty for not helping, although it took me a couple of times to adjust.

This wasn't something she did because she wanted it her way in the kitchen. It was to give her guests the enjoyment of being a guest and doing the same when visiting. In retrospect it was quicker for both of us to do our own thing in the kitchen along with spending additional time for getting to know other guests a bit better.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 10:17AM
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It may be an annoying habit, or it could be a psychological compulsion, as in OCD. She may be disrespectful, or she may not realise that what she's doing is wrong, or she may not even realise that she's doing it!.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 7:33PM
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Thank you all for taking the time to respond. There were so many good suggestions. I have to tread carefully as she is not only a good friend, but my daughter's MIL.

I know she is a little OCD (can you be a LITTLE OCD?) and on top of that, I'm passive/aggressive and hate to have someone mad at me. I think I'm going to have to do what "seeking" recommends and tell her point blank that this is bothering me. Sounds so easy on paper.....could you all come over and help me tell her?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 12:11PM
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megansgram, you crack me up!! A little OCD...that is funny. And I am just like you--it's much easier to tell you what I think you should do than to do anything like that myself. But I'm sure some of the others above would be happy to come over and help you out.

Doesn't it drive you crazy that you hate to have someone mad at you? I've seen a couple of TV shows featuring a subplot of a woman who goes overboard trying to get someone to like her even when she doesn't particularly like them. She just can't stand it when someone doesn't like her. My dh looked at me with a raised eyebrow but I chose to ignore that childish behavior.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 4:36PM
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My husband always jumped up and started to clear the table after dinner. He would do this at my mom's and she didn't like it. It made her feel she had to do it also rather then just sitting and enjoying everyone's company.

There are a couple reasons my husband did this. The main one is he was trying to be helpful. Also, HE doesn't like sitting with dirty dishes so he figures others feel the same way. He didn't understand how it made my mom feel until I explained it to him. He stopped after that.

Your friend might really just be trying to be helpful. Even if you tell her not to, she might not realize how it makes you feel. You would be doing her a big favor to sit down with her and really stress how you don't like it and how it makes you feel.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 7:23PM
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You might try a Ms manners book...with lots of highlighter used on the important parts! It's incredibly rude to clear a table when people are still eating, it's also amazingly rude to do so when it's not your home. I hope your talk goes well. Compulsive or not, it would get her axed from my dinner table in a heart beat. I think it's rude to do any cleaning when you are entertaining. You don't invite guests to watch you wash dishes....and doing so when they're there makes them feel as if they have to do labor as well or feel guilty.

I understand taking the dishes from the last course from the table, but when you reach that final course, if you're still at table and the conversation is flowing, the hostess and host should continue the conversation, not abruptly end it by starting the dishes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 9:37PM
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Ohmygosh! This forum is like having a bunch of sisters that you really get along with. The highlighted Ms Manners book might not be quite the friendly gesture I was hoping for. But I am still considering it.

I take it, seeking, that you also had a mother that told you to "be nice". I decided when I reached "a certain age" that I would start speaking up for myself--maybe I'll just wait a few more years.

I never truly considered that looking at dirty dishes might bother my friend as much as her rushing the clearing does me. I will start practicing my little speech.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 10:05PM
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I have two suggestions:

Take the plate out of her hands, smack her on the hand, and tell her to sit down and be social until it's time to clean up and then you two can polish it off together.

Or give her something else to focus on. Either start a topic of conversation that's right up her alley or ask her to help with something else, like checking in on the baby, getting someone on the phone for you, or letting the dog back in.

I've done the first, while laughing, with great success. Good luck and happy holidays!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 3:35PM
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LMAO Ok I want to have dinner at elaine's house! Although I'd admit that I'd be tempted to take that one step further and "take the plate out of her hands..smack her upside the head, and tell her to sit down..." Heh heh

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 10:23PM
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So, how did Christmas go?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 2:41PM
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If you would like help (eventually) you can say loudly and smiling

"at our house we have a new rule - nothing can be removed from the table until I take the first plate"

    Bookmark   January 4, 2008 at 5:04PM
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I've experienced family and friends who will not listen to me no matter how I phrase things, and must get up and do the dishes. I've learned to let them. As hard as it was at first, to say, "Well, I want to do them later, after I've enjoyed my party, so I wish you would come back in and sit down......" it's now happening VERY infrequently. Once people start realizing that they are going to be in the kitchen all alone doing cleanup, and I am not even coming in to set the DW, they DO get the message.

But your situation, where "Dish-Freak" is taking plates prematurely, needs to get bitten off before she starts. When she begins, you be ready. And just say very kindly, "Sweetie, I don't think everyone's ready to be cleared yet, let's just wait for a few minutes, ok?" Or, if you want to tackle it as it happens, then, take her aside after the meal. Just tell her that you realize it must make her uncomfortable to sit with her used dish in front of her. But that you feel very uncomfortable with her making YOU feel like a bad hostess and grabbing all the dishes before you are sure that everyone is ready. You do need to handle it. Others may hate it too, and it would be a kindness to take care of her presumptuousness.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2008 at 9:52PM
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You don't invite guests to watch you wash dishes.

Which is exactly why I love the fact that you can't see my kitchen sink from my dining or living rooms! I can easily clear the dinner dishes and bring out coffee and dessert without anyone (including me) having to actually see the dirty dishes. When I have people over for dinner I don't expect or want them to do anything except enjoy themselves.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 11:50PM
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YES! I have a friend like this. I too would rather leave the dishes till later so I can visit with my guests. She gets right into the kitchen and starts washing. I know she has good intentions and I appreciate her thoughtfulness, but I feel like it makes me look bad on top of the fact that I just want to get them done later.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 3:43AM
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I like to linger at the table. One friend started to clean up as soon as we finished eating our main entree. I took her aside and asked her to stop, because it indicates to the guests that they should leave the table. Since I want the guests to linger, I needed the dishes to stay on the table.

Also at another party, a guest of mine said she preferred to clean up, to show her appreciation. However I hired a young girl to help me serve and clean. So she could not do anything, but enjoy the night!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 4:06PM
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I'm one who likes to be a guest when I am a guest, and likes to be the hostess and treat my guests as guests when I'm hostess.

In other words, I feel no compulsion to help clean up at others' homes, and I do not allow my guests to help clean up at my house. I tell people point blank, I wish to do my own dishes and that they are guests and should have a seat and let me worry about the dishes. I will usually do a quick rinse/organization of dishes but not a real clean up or loading of the DW.

Now, as to your friend, here's how I'd handle it, since she's already in this habit. Next time she gets up with her plate, I'd immediately get up and meet her in the kitchen. As soon as she put her plate down, I'd give her a hug, and then instead of fully releasing the hug, I'd hold her at the shoulders or arms so that we were eye to eye. Then I'd say something like, "Debbie, You are such a sweetheart to always help me with the dishes. I appreciate your thoughtfulness! But to be honest, it makes me very uncomfortable for you to be doing that here. You're the guest, and I actually prefer to do my own clean up in my kitchen, just because I like to do things my own way. So please, sit down, and enjoy the gathering, and don't give clean up another thought."

This accomplishes a couple of things. First of all, it doesn't make her feel bad because you start out by saying how nice she is. Holding her close as you speak sends the message that this is a serious talk, not just a polite aside. It's also done in the kitchen, away from the other guests.

If she still insists, I'd take her by the hand and lead her back to her seat.

In other words, be gentle, complimentary, sweet, etc, but FIRM.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 5:56PM
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