‘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.
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.
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.
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.
Hmmm. Come to think of it, that Nimrod camper did have one big advantage: no guest room.
New York City. September 2016