I hate having houseguests.
And if people were honest, plenty would admit they do, too.
I say “admit” because I’m aware there’s something inhospitable – even hostile – about feeling this way. We’re supposed to be delighted when relatives and friends call and say, “We’re coming for a visit!” and assume they have an open-ended invitation to stay with us. A week…10 days…two weeks…
During that time they’ll eat our food, take over our beds (because, as good hosts, we’ve relegated ourselves to air mattresses or sleeping bags on the living room floor), leave their hair in our bathroom sink, their dirty ring in our bathtub, and never think of saying, “Don’t cook tonight – we’re taking you out to dinner.”
Spare me. Please?
My dislike of houseguests began as a child. My example was my mother who didn’t like houseguests but hid her feelings, put on her Hostess Face, and got through it. This taught me a number of dysfunctional behaviors including,
- Say “Yes” when what you really mean is “Hell, no.”
- Put out the welcome mat, you door mat.
- What can’t be cured must be endured. (Remember that one?)
One instance was my aunt calling to say she, my uncle and three daughters were coming for a visit. Now, we were a family of seven with one bathroom. Add five people and you have an even dozen all lining up for their toilet and teeth-brushing turns. During that visit there was always someone in the bathroom, even in the middle of the night. I know, because I had to go at 2am and sure enough – there was a line.
Then there was the summer my parents rented a cabin on a lake, ours to enjoy for a whole week. We were ecstatic! So were a number of family members, who assumed that our cabin came with an open door policy.
When we arrived there was already a carload of cousins parked at the cabin, an unwelcome welcoming committee. Throughout the week relatives came and went, and there was never a moment without extra people to feed and find places to sleep. My parents had rented the cabin to get away from it all, but it turned out that it all came right along with us.
Fast forward. Now I’m the adult who, along with my husband, is called upon to play host. We live in Oceanside, California, a northern suburb of San Diego. The city is aptly named – we have several miles of beautiful beaches that are never as crowded as beaches to the south. Nearby are plenty of nice restaurants and fun things to do, and our weather tends to vary from glorious to perfect. All this transformed us into Houseguest Magnets. If we’d thought about it before we moved here, we might have opted instead for some place in South Dakota.
It also begs the question, “Are you coming to visit us, or our world-famous zoo? And mooch a free room and food?”
After moving into our house we were barely unpacked when we got The Call, but these guests were coming for only one night, and that’s doable, right? My woman friend and her husband, newlywed and madly in love. Good for them, right?
But…not so good for us. After a nice day together, we all turned in. Then, when I was almost asleep, I heard a noise from the bedroom next door that was instantly recognizable though almost indescribable. It was female, it was loud, and it began with “oh, oh,” followed by, in an equally loud male voice, “oh, god,” followed by a duet: “god, oh, oh,” followed by – well, you get it.
This went on for some time while I lay there thinking, “Couldn’t you, as guests in my home, have refrained for just one night? Or, since you obviously couldn’t, maybe just be quiet about it? Put a pillow over your face? Better yet, I’ll put a pillow over your face. Both your faces.”
Spare me. Please.
They went on their way the next morning, bed unstripped, wet towels on the bathroom floor, blithely unaware that they had barely gotten out alive.
I’ve contemplated saying, “We don’t do houseguests anymore,” but that seems so, well, inhospitable. But where is the middle ground between, “Hell, no, you can’t stay with us” and, “Oh, we’d love to have you for a nice, long visit!”
I’ve decided that middle ground is utilizing one of my favorite words: Boundaries. I love the idea of setting boundaries. I’m not good at actually doing it – it sometimes seems so, well, hostile. Door mat, remember? But I was resolved: From now on, my house, and my house rules.
Then came The Test. My brother emailed to say he and his wife wanted to leave the Michigan winter behind and visit us. I brooded at my computer for several hours, gathering my thoughts. Then I began to type. “Sure!” I said, “And here are my house rules:
Rule #1: Two or three nights work for us.
Rule #2: Let’s take turns cooking – or treating at restaurants.
At this point my hands are clammy and my neck is cramping. I did mention I’m not good at setting boundaries, and here comes the toughest one of all. But I’m determined to create my own brave, new world. I type:
Rule #3: No noisy sex.
Spare me. Please!