There’s something I’ve been thinking about since I have played hostess fairly frequently over the past year or so. I thought of writing up a list of houseguest Do’s and Don’ts, but since I really haven’t had any bad houseguests, I decided instead to just jot down a few thoughts.
When you are a guest in someone’s home, never say this: “Please don’t go to any extra bother for us!”
Come on. Get real. You know you don’t mean it!! You don’t really want your hosts to offer you uncleaned bathrooms and sheets that have been slept on for two weeks by kids who frequently play in the dirt. And truly, it’s sort of nice if they have a meal prepared for you, isn’t it?
Now I realize that somewhere in this land there may be homes which are always perfectly clean and tidy and look like a magazine picture. There may be homes where every meal is on time, perfectly balanced, and served on attractive dinnerware at a table with a centerpiece. There may even be homes where sheets are freshly laundered every day. (It’s a stretch for me to imagine that one, but it may happen.)
Just in case you’re wondering, my home is not one of the above. Trust me, when you visit my home, you WANT me to go to a little extra effort.
It has been amazing to me what a huge percentage of people will say this phrase, or something like it. I simply cannot believe that any of them allow weekend guests to wander in, raid the frig, change their own sheets, pick up the towels off the bathroom floor, and move the pile off books off the couch so there is a place to sit.
On the other hand, while I do think most of us expect a certain amount of preparation from our hosts, I also think it’s very important that the hosts relax and not micromanage. I have been in homes where I was hovered over, and that is most uncomfortable. If you set down an empty glass and the host immediately rises and whisks it to the kitchen and into the dishwasher, if they pat the cushions back into shape the moment you get up from a chair, you tend to feel that you’re causing them a great deal of trouble.
So my theory is that as a host, you prepare your home to be clean and inviting. And then you relax! (I’m good at that part!) If your guests are included in your everyday life, they are more likely to feel comfortable. Most people are not appalled if asked to help set the table.
As a guest, however, I think I still have a lot to learn. I have some of the greatest houseguests! They are so thoughtful. Many of them, knowing that we entertain frequently, bring part of a meal. I certainly never expect it, but that is a wonderful gift to us! Not only does it cut down my preparation, but it helps on the grocery bill, too! Most of them offer to help with folding towels, sweeping the kitchen, or other mundane everyday things that must be done.
Last fall, a guest called on the day before they were to arrive and said, “I suppose you’re busy cooking and cleaning, getting ready for us.” I admitted that I was, expecting her to protest that I shouldn’t do anything “extra.” Instead she responded with, “Well, that’s good, that’s the way it should be.” I was amazed! And I realized she was right. Never again will I tell my hostess not to! I’ll just tell her how much I appreciate her.