Michelle Buteau helps you deal with long-term guests

Comedian Michelle Buteau, our etiquette expert, provides advice on hosting your in-laws and dealing with unwanted advice.

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Photo of Michelle Buteau wearing a pink blazer.


Michelle Buteau is a mother, wife, dog mom, actress, writer, comedian, and television host. Her book of autobiographical essays, Survival of the thickest, soon to be a Netflix series. She is also a co-host of the popular podcast adulterate on the Exactly Right network. With all this life experience, we are confident in Michelle’s ability to navigate a series of social dilemmas. This is her advice to our readers in the December 2022 issue of Very easy.

Do you have your own social dilemma for Michelle to solve? Let us know at [email protected]

Back seat business consultants

CHRISTA: My husband and I are proud to have started a successful small business that has been in business for six years. The problem: Lots of people give us unsolicited business advice, often including ideas we’ve already implemented or thought of. Is there a nice way to take down these “business experts” without coming off as someone who thinks they know it all? Definitely not!

MICHELLE: Excuse me. Congratulations to you and your husband on starting a successful small business. in this economy? That is incredible. And the fact that you two can work together, honey, you’re winning.

When family members want to give me career advice, I ask them, “Are you a Hollywood agent? Are you a manager? Well, then let’s talk about something else.” If my family wants to give me advice about my children, I say: “Are you a child psychologist? A pediatrician? Are you even a clown going to perform at a birthday party? No? So hang it up, boo. In the words of Ariana Grande, ‘Thank you, next.’”

Listen, you and your husband have created something special together, and unless you’re asking someone for advice, you’re not allowed to give it to them, and you can tell them. You can say, “If I want advice or have a question, I’ll ask you.” Once again, congratulations on having a successful business. Six years? Come on. He hadn’t even been born six years ago.

Dealing with a very full house

Shakeela: In my husband’s culture, it’s common to host and care for relatives from abroad for weeks, even months, at a time. We have been staying with the family in their home country for several months, but they have hired help and spacious houses. I feel uncomfortable hosting guests for such long periods in our small city apartment, but my husband thinks it’s fair. He says it would be culturally unacceptable to ask them to find accommodation elsewhere. What I can do?

MICHELLE: There’s a lot to unpack here. (Pun intended!) Would it be easier and more convenient for everyone to stay somewhere else? Yes. But what are the consequences of that decision? Cultural differences are very difficult to deal with. You don’t want your husband’s family to feel unwelcome. Ultimately this is your family now too. They may have a bigger place with hired help, but your home, I’m sure, is just as lovely and full of love. The most important thing is that everyone is together. For the time they are there, could you hire help? Cleaning or cooking? Do you have friends who love to scrub the kitchen? (I have those friends. I love those friends!)

Maybe you could reserve a house for everyone, including you and your husband, so you can enjoy a stay too. This is a good time to lean into him and come up with a plan to get everyone comfortable and comfortable and keep the peace. Memories are all we have, and your in-laws will remember that you did everything you could to cherish them. Go get them, Martha Stewart!

family fights

Karyn: My parents are healthy 81-year-olds and have been (mostly) happily married for almost 60 years. But they have started arguing among themselves over fairly minor issues. They seem to have lost all awareness of themselves. They take on strong, harsh tones in public, and it’s embarrassing. I have tried to talk to them about it but they either deny or dismiss the problem. It seems to be getting worse. How should I handle this?

MICHELLE: Karyn, isn’t it crazy when your family becomes a whole episode of Everybody loves Raymond? At some point in life, the rules of the relationship go away and don’t really come back. Is there a way you can control your parents a bit? Do you order dinner so you won’t be in public when there is a disagreement? Do you have a jar of negativity and every time someone starts a fight they have to put a dollar in there? Maybe an activity that doesn’t require talking to each other, like a movie? You can’t teach a couple of old dogs new tricks, so I would embrace this new normal. Also, I know that being combative can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. If your documents have ruled out any medical problems, try the tips above. Good luck, boo!

A very expensive thank you

SS: Our neighbors refused to accept a cash thank you after they helped us out of a bind. Instead, we offered to treat them to dinner. It was very clear that we would pick up the bill… and they ordered additional take-home meals for their children. I felt that was presumptuous of him. My husband thought so too but he said he was awkward and we paid anyway. What should we have done?

MICHELLE: SS! I’m sending you an SOS because that’s awkward! It’s so extra that I can’t stand it. But I will, and in a to-go box. Real talk: everyone is raised differently. I have a friend who can’t walk into a green room in a television studio without emptying the basket of snacks into her bag. One time, she was getting rid of some items in my apartment and I invited a different friend over and said, “Take what you need.” You know this girl put everything in a giant bag and left? I had to chase her down the hall and say, “Boo face, I said take what you need. That doesn’t mean take everything.” She was so embarrassed and she apologized. At some point, I probably did something that made someone look twice at me. (LOL, I know I have.) You offered them a meal as a thank you and they made the most of it, end of story. You did the right thing paying for your children’s meals. You don’t need to take them out anymore, and now you and your husband have a ridiculous memory to laugh about.

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