The House Guest Hall of Fame


‘I hope you had a really really good time’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of an extra room must be in want of a house guest. (Sorry, Jane Austen.)

When I told The Child about my plan to write a post about house guests (both the really great ones and the really, um, not-so-great ones), she was concerned.

‘Mom! What if one of the Not-So-Great Guests reads your post and sees that you’re writing about him (or her)!’ And I’m like ‘So? Maybe he or she would benefit from being thusly outed. And besides, I don’t think any of them even reads my blog.’ (Another reason they find themselves in the Not-So-Great File).

But then, just the other day, when I was thinking of writing a post featuring a television appearance by Yours Truly in a documentary that appeared on British TV back in the 90’s called ‘Skyscraper’. (I know, I know. You’re very excited and impressed.) I was nervous about appearing, well, self-aggrandizing, and the self-same Child said, ‘Hey. It’s your blog. You can write about whatever you want.’

So. House guests it is. The TV appearance will just have to wait, maybe forever. (But if now you are curious, click here, and go to episode 4; you can watch me get lost finding my new Ogilvy office in said skyscraper. Pop plenty of corn first. Maybe pour yourself a nice glass of wine.)

Okay. Back to Jane Austen. I bet she’d make a swell house guest. But since she’s not a possibility, I have to make do with live people. Speaking of which, check out those seriously adorable house guests in the photo at the top of this post. That’s The Child and a couple of her friends, enjoying themselves mightily at a relatively-recent Thanksgiving, which is my Very Favorite Holiday. Just look at them: Happily (and quietly) pursuing a shared activity not requiring any labor-intensive hostess supervision. Sharing a bed, even (if only for the afternoon). Not eating any food in said bed. Model house guests.

More recently, I entertained a few female friends of my own. We had sort of an adult ‘sleepover’. I don’t have a photo to show you, but this particular house guest experience reminded me very pleasantly of the great time I had with my Mom and my Sister and Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn as guests for a couple of days. Both of my more-or-less-same-age Girl Groups, I must admit, were not nearly so quiet. Oh, and there was no bed sharing.

The Girls 'unwind' during a seriously successful females-only Amagansett Event

Girls just wanna have fun. On a beach. At night. With wine.

To be honest, most of my guests are, in fact, model house guests. Even the men. If they weren’t, well, I wouldn’t keep inviting people to stay, now would I? It’s kind of like that thing they say about babies: if it were all that awful having them, everyone would be an only child. Right?

Of course, even model house guests sometimes sit on the couch in wet bathing suits, or walk around with sandy and/or muddy feet, or even set wet glasses down on prized hardcover books. But that’s (sort of) okay and eminently forgivable. And kind of within the bounds of ‘make yourself at home’. That is, if you live in the kind of home where books serve double-duty as coasters.

Speaking of ‘make yourself at home’. When your hostess says ‘Make yourself at home’ (which I never do, by the way) imagine that you are at, say, your mother-in-law’s home. Would you pare your toenails in Mother Smith’s living room? Or give your spouse a scented-oil massage in her bed? Would you ever ever think of dying your hair (yes, this really happened, and no, red hair dye does not come out of a chenille bath rug) in her bathroom?

Oh, and then there are the guests who bring food. Now, I don’t mean a nice jar of jam or a home-baked pie (usually from a hideously-expensive farm stand, but delicious, so who’s complaining?) I mean I’ve had guests who’ve brought rafts of provisions, as if they were going into a Cold-War bunker or on an Antarctic expedition instead of to my nicely-equipped sort-of-Hamptons home. And these provisions are for themselves. Like they can’t trust me to provide food they can actually eat.

Actual cooler of provisions brought by a guest for her own consumption. Deer skull added by me, for scale

Actual cooler of provisions brought by a guest for her own consumption. Deer skull added by me, for scale

Now, think about this. It’s kind of like taking your own food to Lutece (Wait! Lutece is gone) or, hmmm, Gramercy Tavern, or (wait!) it would be like going to Shake Shack and taking your own burger.

Speaking of bringing things. You don’t really need to. But it is awfully nice when guests do. If you’re stumped for an idea, think ‘consumable’. You know, something that everyone can enjoy together, and that someday will be gone. Hostesses have short memories. They might forget to drag out and display the purple majolica soap dish the next time you spend a weekend. So think fancy olive oils in pretty bottles. The afore-mentioned jams. Chocolates. Wine. Did I say wine? When in doubt, bring wine. Just don’t keep it in your room and drink it all yourself. Which one house guest did once. Really.

A lovely bottle brought by a lovely young man who wasn't even a House Guest. He just wanted to park in my driveway for an hour or two

A lovely bottle brought by a lovely young man who wasn’t even a House Guest. He just wanted to park in my driveway for an hour or two

There’s an old saying (maybe by Woody Allen?) that comedy equals tragedy plus time. Which must be why Bad Guests are much funnier (after the fact) than Good Guests. All I know is they’re much more fun to write about than actually live through.

Like the guest who couldn’t sleep in the guest room because she found an ant (not an ‘aunt’, of the Glorified Rice kind) in her bed. Or the couple who left one Sunday morning for a nice brunch, ‘forgetting’ to take their child along. Or the guy who sneaked (snuck?) downstairs in the middle of the night to turn the pool heat to 90. Or even the one who declared that ‘you needn’t cook us dinner tonight because we are going to The American Hotel’, but, yup, failed to include their hosts (um, us).

Well. When these various guests waved good-bye after their respective (interminable) weekends were over, I politely waved back. But did I say ‘Come back again soon’? Or ‘It was great having you?’ Or even ‘Thank you for coming?’ Nope. I smiled sweetly and said ‘I hope you had a really really good time’.

The unsaid part being, of course, ‘Because you are never ever coming back.’ Ah, Lutheran lying at its very very best.

Now I do realize that this whole post has rather a one-percentish taint. After all, at least I have a guest room. Quite a different situation from how we ‘summered’ when I was growing up.

Family Vacation, Nimrod camper style

Our Summer Home when I was a kid

Hmmm. Come to think of it, that Nimrod camper did have one big advantage: no guest room.

New York City. September 2016




25 thoughts on “The House Guest Hall of Fame

  1. Hilarious and so true…someone came to our house and immediately plonked their shoe’d feet directly on our expensive couch…I cringed, bit my tongue and vowed to never invite them back…”make yourself at home” doesn’t mean abuse the furniture!

    • It’s amazing what people will do, even if not invited to “make themselves at home”! Once this kid, who was old enough to know better, started jumping up and down on my couch. I told him if he wanted to jump, he should go outside and jump. He said, “I do this all the time at home.” Then I said, “but you’re not AT home.” Did I mention that his mom was sitting right there?

  2. Wow! Those are some good stories. I like the gentleman who gave you a bottle of wine just for allowing him to park in your driveway. That was super nice!
    That cooler is huge! We have one but only use it for parties.

    • Thank you, Ashley! I like, too, that the “gentleman” who gave me the wine is one of The Child’s friends and has, in his early twenties, more manners than most of the “mature” guests whose stories I told here (!)

  3. I remember the house guest I had that brought their own clean bedding with them. As if I couldn’t be trusted to put cleaning bedding on the guest bed for them. As you said, if one is going to bring anything- bring wine! Can’t believe someone dyed their hair at yours & the couple that left their child with you- simply awful!

    • Hi there and thank you! I have yet to have a guest bring bedding, but the bringing-of-her-own food one was close! We’ve also had people go off and leave their dogs (poor dogs cried and barked), but the kid was worse. Sigh. Like I say, at least I’m lucky enough to be able to have guests — even abusive ones!

  4. I find this funny at your expense; not in a nasty way, but people being people, well; unthinking ones in truth! I am an advocate of leave somewhere how you found it. Guests can bring communal food and beverages yes, but none of this other errant behaviour that leaves the host tongue biting and pondering the clean up afterwards instead of enjoying the company. Thanks for sharing this one 🙂

    • Thank YOU, Gary. For reading, commenting — and empathizing! I did learn a valuable trick from my Middle Brother Roger, who, upon seeing me vacuuming in preparation for company, said ‘No no. You’re doing it all wrong. You clean after they leave, not before they arrive!’

  5. Red hair dye– seriously?! What would even posses someone to do that in someone else’s home?! Don’t worry, I always bring wine, and I always share! I shan’t be sharing a bed, though; my husband claims I’m somewhat of a bed hog.

    • Yes, the red hair dye was a stunner. But then again, she (or ‘he’, actually; it was her hub who handed over the bottle) brought wine. Which drowns out a multitude of guest sins. You sound like you’d fit in just fine chez moi. And no worries — I never ask anyone to share a bathroom, much less a bed! xoxoxo

  6. As someone well-versed in etiquette, it blows my mind how out of touch some people are. I don’t mean, when to properly send a thank you card and by what means but things like DON’T DYE YOUR HAIR IN SOMEONE ELSE’S HOUSE which should be common sense. I wish that people would overall think of others before themselves- you are being incredibly gracious to host them, they should show you due consideration!! I admit, I shock-laughed at a few of these! Great post 🙂

    • Hey there, anhistorianabouttown! So glad you got a shock laugh out of my story (and I’m so using ‘shock laugh’ — what a great term!) Yes, people are amazing, aren’t they? BTW, it’s the same woman who dyed her hair who gives her hub scented-oil massages in/on my sheets. But, sigh, they are our Very Best Friends so I try to take deep cleansing breaths when they’re here. Also BTW, sounds like you’d be a terrific guest (!) Thanks for stopping by xo

  7. Let’s just say that I am always very impressed by anyone who is a good host and hostess. I’ve never been very good at that. On the other hand, I think I am a tolerable guest. No rings on the table (or books!) in my trail and shoes are left at the door. Sometimes a little picky about the coffee, so in some instances, I have packed a bag of beans and a cone filter.

    A house near a beach would be quite the challenge for a host. As careful and considerate as I try to be as a houseguest, I am not sure I would even want to host myself. (Huh?) Well, you know what I mean.

  8. “No kissing noises [from the leather jacket] — for the last few blocks, at least.” Yay, you found your room in part four, lol. Your appearance in pt. 4 at Ogilvy and Mather may be the most lively part of the doc. 🙂

  9. judy robbins

    You are probably the best hostess in the whole world, Alice, and bite your tongue so well. Have had many houseguests but I actually have made a rule – 3 nights only (with the exception of my sister who can stay a week). Saw you in the documentary! Saw your leather jacket, too. You are someone I would have loved to work with.

    • Yes, Judy. My tongue has so many bite marks, it’s practically perforated! No doubt you are familiar with that old rule: ‘fish and house guests go bad after 3 days’. Of course this does not apply to Sister Fish. So fun that you saw me in the documentary! That’s the same leather jacket that I wore to the nursery-school interview, BTW. xoxoxoxoxo

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