Dear Ms. Demeanor,
We have post-Sandy houseguests staying with us while their building is being repaired -- 2 kids (boys), 2 parents, and another unrelated female. It is getting pretty crowded to say the least but we are happy to accommodate.
The problem is that it is getting pretty expensive already. We are going through staples and toiletries at an alarming rate. So far no one has offered to help defray the costs (or go the grocery store to help us replenish).
It is appropriate to ask for money? The thought of it makes me uncomfortable but I don't know how much longer this is sustainable for us.
It is so kind of you to open your home to friends in need. This is such a difficult time for so many and those of us with the ability to help are privileged to be able to do so.
I have always maintained that true etiquette in this day and age is less about what is "proper" and more about what is "thoughtful."
Your guests are concerned about their home and a return to normalcy -- even the most considerate people are waylaid by these larger worries.
Perhaps a gentle suggestion on your part is the best place to start: "Do you mind running out to Gristedes for some toilet paper and milk? We are running low."
If the hint is not taken, my instinct tells me to let it be, unless this is a true financial hardship for you. If so, honestly is always the best policy. New Yorkers will have to dig deep for a while -- both literally in our pockets and metaphorically in our patience -- as we recover and rebuild.
My best to you and yours. Think of how big your apartment will feel when everyone finally leaves.
Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.