How can I get the men to help out at our Thanksgiving table?

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On Thanksgiving with my family or whenever my husband and I eat at our house, only the women help to clear the dirty dishes from the table. I often ask that nobody help us, but people – by which I mean women – always do. I make sure that my husband lends a hand; our children are still too young. But it annoys me that my father, brother, and other husbands in our community (where most women work outside the home) still see cooking and cleaning as women’s work. I guess you’re going to tell me that the only way I can ask for help is my husband. Is there anything else I can do?


You guessed wrong Rachel! Before I turn to your question, however, let me deflect the objections of men who assume equal (or greater) responsibility for household chores and of etiquette experts who believe no guest should ever lift a finger: it is a wide world. Many male partners cook and clean, and many guests are hardwired to help no matter how many times hosts ask them not to.

Despite this, I have experienced the imbalance you describe time and time again, be it in cooking, cleaning or childcare. Women tend to work, and many men sit and watch. I see no reason for you to remain silent about inequality in your own home, even with guests who have chosen an Ozzie and Harriet model for their relationships.

Decades ago, at our Thanksgiving table, my mother announced, “In gratitude for all the work that women do, the men will now clear away.” She and the other women sat and the men went to work – cheerful enough As I remember. (If you prefer, target your request at people who didn’t help with the cooking.) It’s easier than making speeches about gender roles, but it addresses the issue you’re raising and gives your young children a good one Example.

I have two nieces in their 20s. There have been many occasions to give them presents in recent years: graduations, showers, a wedding and the birth of a child. Nobody is great at acknowledging gifts and it’s starting to annoy me. I started asking (via SMS) if they received my gift then they thank me. There is rarely an opportunity to sit down and discuss the meaning of gratitude. Any suggestions?


One observation: I’ve never received a letter from a young person complaining about the lack of a gift, but I drown in emails from gift givers who are hurt or upset when young recipients don’t appreciate gifts of their own accord. To me, that speaks to a course correction (unless you like feeling bad).

Your nieces should thank you, of course, but I can’t bring that about. If they are indifferent to you and your gifts, or if your true relationship is with their parents or grandparents—as is often the case—stop giving. If you don’t feel close enough to your nieces to ask them directly what you want from them, stop too. Giving out more gifts at a time is not a solution, and complaining to third parties will not get you anywhere. Consider greeting cards if you can’t get cold.

My wife (rightly) thinks I give her too much “helpful” advice – like how to load the dishwasher or avoid grammatical errors. I’m trying to stop But lately she’s been playing games on her phone when we hang out with other couples. She twists her body to hide what she is doing but that seems so rude! I’ve held back from saying anything, given our problem with advice, but may I say something just this once?


Let me see if I have this right: You have so abused the path of “helpful advice” – aka criticism – that you are now enlisting advice columns to deliver it for you. I agree that it’s rude to fiddle with phones while we’re socializing, but I think an endless stream of spousal criticism is worse. (It can erode your partner’s self-esteem.)

Wait until you’ve gone a full week without criticizing your wife’s behavior—start now! — and then ask them to tuck their phone away out of respect for their friends at gatherings. Win!

When I walk my cute German Shepherd in my neighborhood, is it okay to throw sealed poop bags in other people’s trash cans that are waiting at the curb to be picked up?


This dog lover will give you a hard no. In my neighborhood there are privately owned trash cans. Some people might not mind you throwing in a poop bag, depending on how good you are at knotting it, but dumping feces on someone else’s private property without permission is a pretty big step.

Also, my garbage company requires that we put all garbage in large plastic bags that tie shut. (Individual poop bags may leak or open and cause a mess.) If there are no municipal trash cans on your walking route, take the poop bags home and dispose of them there.

If you need help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook, or @SocialQPhilip on twitter.


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How can I get the men to help out at our Thanksgiving table?
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