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DON'T LET HOUSE BE TURNED INTO HOTEL

Dear Miss Manners: Four years ago, a couple we have known for 35 years asked to use our guest room for college football games, five to six weekends a year. We go to our vacation home after work on Friday and return Sunday, and they came on Saturday and left Sunday. Then they started coming late on Friday, without asking if this was OK.

Last year, the husband, who is quite large, started sleeping in our king-sized bed. Also, they started to bring in other football fans to sleep in the guest room, never asking if this was OK, either.I am absolutely furious that they would take these liberties, but this is a sore subject and I don't want it to cause a divorce. My sweet husband will not say a word and does not seem to mind. I have not expressed my feelings to our "guests."

Gentle Reader: Although she sympathizes with you, Miss Manners has to remind you that hosts may not reprimand their guests. The power they have to defend themselves is their ability not to invite the guests to return.

Under ordinary circumstances, Miss Manners would instruct you in retrieving this power, which, with good intentions, you foolishly gave away. Without excuses, you would merely tell your friends how very sorry you are that your house will not be available on the next weekend that they had planned to come, but that you hoped they would let you know when they would next be in town, because you would love to see them.

Anybody who would take offense, especially after all that hospitality, would have to be seriously re-evaluated in terms of friendship.

But Miss Manners doesn't want to cause a divorce, either, so she will suggest an even gentler method, to which your sweet husband could not object.

Invite yourself to stay over at their vacation house. You know the one Miss Manners means - the place you stay during the week. This should be done by announcing to your friends, with great excitement, that you are able to stay home, after all, on the weekend that they are expected, and are very much looking forward to having them as guests.

And then entertain them, as proper hosts. Occupy your room and relegate them to the guest room but spare no effort to provide them meals with and other comforts.

This will establish, in the nicest possible way, that it is your home, and you are in charge there. If you have given them keys, tell them you are afraid that you need them back. Ask them to check with you before the next weekend because you hope to be able to have them there again. And when you find you are unable to be there to entertain them then, leave the keys with a neighbor asking that they be returned, and leave a note saying that you have shut off your room (you might leave things spread out on the bed to make that point visually), but hope they will be comfortable in the guest room.

One further caution: If at any time you find yourself tempted to say, "Please make yourselves at home," resist it. These people cannot be trusted to understand that such an invitation is not to be taken literally.

Dear Miss Manners: I called my girlfriend and told her we didn't drink tea, and I'd like to return the teapot she gave me for a shower gift and get something I can use. I didn't think she'd mind when I asked her where she bought it, and she didn't seem upset when she told me.

She sent a check for the wedding, but she and her boyfriend did not attend. I've called her on their answering service, but she has not called back. We used to talk all the time.

Do you think she is mad at me for having returned her gift? I thought she'd understand.

Gentle Reader: What your friend understands is that you considered her present only for its practical value as a trade-in and not as a symbol of her affection. Miss Manners presumes that that is why she decided to hand over the money instead of choosing a wedding present for you, while withholding the affection that you treated as being of so little account.

And what you failed to understand is that you could have had it both ways. You need only have thanked her for her thoughtfulness instead of making it clear that you considered the present to have been a thoughtless one.

Then you could have made other use of the teapot - tracking down the store on your own or giving it away, donating it to charity, or using it to water plants.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.