There are some traditions I think we should terminate.
One in the presidential pardon for turkeys.
I don’t pardoning mean these turkeys:
I mean pardoning these turkeys:
Here’s another tradition I think we should terminate:
There were two catalysts for this post:
First, today is Labor Day, that end-of-summer holiday when many people are having houseguests or are houseguests.
And second, a recent Dear Abby letter in which the writer described the annual two-week visit from her brother and his wife:
“She is rude, nags my brother and asks him if he has showered, changed his underwear, etc. She treats him like a child, and ‘reminds’ everyone else how smart she is…She expects everyone to wait on her because of the distance they’ve traveled. We feel three days is long enough. How do I tell them without hard feelings this not an acceptable length of time to stay?”
Abby wimped out and said, in part:
“Tell your brother and his wife that while you love them, you are unable to accommodate them for longer than three days and, if they wish to stay in your city longer than that, they will need to arrange other accommodations.”
“…and stick to your guns without arguing or explaining further.”
While I agree with Abby’s last sentence, instead of all that “unable to accommodate” stuff, I will offer this response:
“We don’t do houseguests anymore.”
Five words: Simple, direct and honest.
Or, if you feel the need to soften the shock of your response, add a preface:
“We’d love to see you, but…”
The BUT is critical.
And so is this:
There must be NO pause between the “you” and “but.”
No chance for them to interrupt.
Say it like this:
To that response many would cry…
When I said “We don’t do houseguests anymore” was your first reaction that I was wrong or selfish or something equally bad, and/or that’s not what nice people say, and/or everyone has houseguests because that’s what people do?
Yes, that’s what people do, and that’s why houseguest horror stories abound:
When I googled “houseguest horror stories” I got more than a million results.
But we continue to have houseguests because…because…
The worst reason to do anything.
How could you possibly say “No” your parents, your siblings, other family members, your best friend, your sort-of friends, your not-really-friends but they’re going to visit your city, your neighbors from when you lived next door before you moved seven years ago, a person you’ve never met but he’s a relative of the neighbors from when you lived next door…
We say “Yes” because…
Otherwise, they’ll think we don’t love them. Or…
Otherwise, they won’t love us anymore. Or…
Otherwise, they’ll think we’re bad people.
I was going to start this sentence with “The worst houseguests are…”
But I can’t decide which is the worst.
How about the cousins you haven’t seen in years who are in town to take their four kids to the nearby theme park?
They show up at your front door – no call, no text, no heads-up of any kind, and:
“Hi! I’m your cousin Louise, remember me? We’re in town to go to WunderWorld and I just remembered you live here, so we cancelled our hotel reservations and…can we come in?”
Or the people who call and invite themselves to your place for 10 days? You spinelessly succumb, and politely say…
“Well! Now that we’ve settled the dates, what do you like for breakfast? Coffee? Juice? Toast?… Oh? You like Eggs Benedict? With fresh Hollandaise sauce? And…what’s that? You said your girlfriend does too, but she’ll want vegan? Vegan Eggs Benedict? And…champagne? Did you say champagne?”
And then there are the houseguests who – no surprise here – are also the biggest liars:
“We won’t be any trouble, I promise! You’ll barely know we’re there!”
And the last part is true. They’ll be nowhere in sight when it’s time to do the dishes or pick up the tab at a restaurant. But they’ll definitely make their presence felt when shortly after they arrive, they advise that they’re accustomed to having clean sheets and towels…
OK. I have decided on my ultimate worst. My ultimate horror story of…
In my very first blog post back in May 2017, I recounted a pre- “We-don’t-do-houseguests-anymore” story of a girlfriend who asked if she and her Significant Other could say for one night.
I didn’t want houseguests, but I was spineless and said “Yes” (excuse: she’s a close friend) and so they arrived.
And it was fine – we had pizza and salad delivered, we chatted, the evening wound down, and we said good night.
And I ended up like this:
Not because my houseguests were snoring – though that would have been bad enough.
But rather because my friend and her Significant Other – in the bedroom right next to mine – were having egregiously loud sex, complete with groans, moans, “Oh, Gods!” and a variety of other sound effects.
The noise seemed to go on forever.
Then…the big crescendo. A few more “Oh, Gods!”
I was furious.
They were guests in my home for ONE night – and they couldn’t refrain for just ONE night?
Or at least…have sex without the sound effects?
When they left the next day, them thanking us profusely for the lovely visit, and me, smiling and struggling mightily not to give them the Evil Eye for disturbing my sleep…
That’s when I decided:
When houseguests arrive, you can no longer be yourself. You have to be upbeat and cheerful, even when you’re feeling neither. When they recount their trip to the local zoo with 133 accompanying pictures, you have to be enthused and impressed, even when you’re feeling neither.
And when your houseguest arrives with his dog in tow – the dog he hadn’t mentioned he was bringing – you warmly welcome him and his dog, even when you’re feeling warmth toward neither.
And I invite you to join me in putting out the Unwelcome mat:
And mastering the response:
And making your sentiments known.
I have since May 2017.
Right at the top of this blog: