Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have built and begun using a second home. We have entertained some wonderful houseguests here.

Last weekend, a couple of longtime friends, "Shirley" and "Arnold," came to stay for three days. They were the most miserable three days I can remember, mostly because of Arnold.

He dominated all conversation, expected all his food to be served to him — even though the dessert course was explicitly buffet-style — made noises while eating and never once offered to prepare any food. The final straw came during the last night of their stay. Arnold came into the living room in his pajamas, lay down on the couch and, when he saw what we were already watching on TV, said, "I prefer the History Channel." I was so dumbfounded I could only laugh.

Needless to say, we are not planning to invite Arnold and Shirley back (which creates some other problems). What, if anything, should I say to this couple? And are there any books or other resources on "how to be a good houseguest" that I can send him anonymously?

— DISTURBED IN THE DESERT

DEAR DISTURBED: Because Arnold and Shirley are "longtime friends," it is surprising that you hadn't noticed the husband's boorish behavior before. But sometimes you don't get to really know a person until after you have lived with him.

I do not recommend trying to educate this man on good manners at this late date. It is amazing how thin-skinned people with Arnold's lack of sensitivity for others can be. Nor should you send him any anonymous literature. He and his wife would know where it came from, so please don't sink to that level.

Sometimes silence speaks the loudest. Do not invite them again, and that will convey your message.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I disagree about when to take down the Christmas decorations. I know there are some superstitions associated with leaving them up too long or taking them down too soon. Also, should the tree be taken down before or after the New Year?

— WEARY ELVES IN TENNESSEE

DEAR WEARY ELVES: I am unaware of any superstitions concerning Christmas decorations. Many people leave their decorations (and trees) up if they are entertaining for New Year's Eve. However, common sense dictates that when the needles start falling and the tree shows signs of drying out, it should be disposed of so it doesn't become a fire hazard.

DEAR ABBY: My adult daughter, "Marsha," lives at home and will walk in and start a conversation or tell me something while I'm watching the news or some other show I'm interested in. Marsha never seems to arrive during commercials, which I'd gladly skip.

If I don't stop what I'm doing and pay full attention to her, she becomes offended. I feel she is interrupting. Who's right?

— JAMES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR JAMES: You are. However, a compromise might be to invest in a digital video recorder. That way you can "pause" whatever you're watching and return to it when interrupted. (It's also a godsend if you need to grab a snack or go to the bathroom.)

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.