By Hira Zunair
Guests, like freshly caught fish, start stinking after three days. Sounds rude? I also had that sympathetic-plus-touchy feeling when I first read this statement somewhere. But after dealing with a herd of clingy guests, I just got the true essence of the statement. In our house warming party, besides the praises, there were also some self-invitations. “What a beautiful house! I so wanna stay.” And as an efficient host, I was like, “Sure, anytime!” I took it so casually till the day my husband’s cousin sister was standing at our doorstep with three kids and four bags. Even that was fine. But the torture I underwent during their never-ending stay still haunts me in my dreams.
Whatever your take on this guest-host relationship is, I think it depends upon the nature of guests and their behaviors. You cannot tell who will make a good guest before they arrive. So it’s better to have a test drive before the actual trip. Initially invite them for a hi-tea or lunch before inviting them for a stay at your place. Precaution is better than cure, isn’t it?
As a good host, try to make your guest comfortable by changing your lifestyle a little. For example, if you know your guest is allergic to flowers, it doesn’t matter if you remove your favorite flower vase from their room or else you can use artificial flowers in it. Consideration goes a long way, from both guest and host.
If you are a guest at somebody’s home, remember just a little thing; you are in somebody’s home, not yours. If you are told to ‘make yourself at home’, that doesn’t mean to do exactly as you do at your home but feel comfortable. So get your dirty shoes off their ivory white sofa and tell the kids to stop playing with their crystal vase. Try to adjust your schedule according to the hosts and don’t demand that they do what you like. Ask before doing something that costs them money like calling your relatives in the US. Don’t give an excuse that your host is very rich. If that’s the case, they are even more careful with money. Well, how do you think they got rich, by letting all their guests call long distance all the time?
You can, of course, ask people not to do things in your home, without offending them. “We don’t play football with the cushions and would appreciate it very much if you would ask your kids not to do that either.” The biggest problem with close relatives is that they start owning your home and when they come for a stay, they start rearranging your schedule, your furniture, even your life. “The color scheme of these curtains should be this or that, don’t you think?” “Thank you but no, if I thought that, I would’ve arranged it that way.”
If your guests are sensible enough, they won’t extend their stay to the level that it becomes problematic for you. But sometimes, it’s impossible to make them leave, especially when they know but don’t bother. Follow the helpful hints below and you’ll be able to enjoy your home, sweet home once again.
Stop being a good host. Your guests will never leave if they feel welcomed. So pull the welcome mat out their feet. You can begin by shutting down your washing facilities. Tell them that your washing machine is out of order. They can’t keep wearing the same dress for more than three days and then will prefer to go to some place with proper facilities. Secondly, stop being their personal chef. Don’t go to buy groceries this week; cut off their generous food privileges and then see the results.
Assign them chores. Sample chores can be mowing the lawn; vacuuming the living room; watering the plants; doing the dishes; supervising the maid; and so on. Try not to make it too hectic for them but thought-provoking enough to make them realize what’s going on and why.
Nothing makes guests feel more unwelcome than ignoring them completely. Treat them by leaving them at home when you go out for shopping or movie. You don’t need to be mean about it, but you do have to let them know that you have your own life that doesn’t include them. If they are sensible, they’ll get the message and go away.
Home renovation? This is the best time. Paint your house, mend any corner that needs attention and operates all of your noisiest equipment. Either the guests will leave before the real work begins or they’ll offer to help out, giving you a source of free labor.
Get sick, REALLY sick. Nobody wants to be around someone who’s clinically ill. You can fake an illness by reproducing an old stand-by like the flu with frequent trips to the washroom and plenty of coughing and sneezing fits. It can also be a severe headache that results in lying in bed all day and not being able to get up even. Going into the kitchen is out of the question.
If all else fails, simply ask them to share your burden financially. You can start by asking them to buy groceries or by contributing to paying the bills. Too harsh? Ok. You are out of cheese to make their favorite cheese omelet? Ask them to fetch a packet of cheese from the store nearby. Either they’ll stop eating cheese omelets or will go away.
Still, hijacked? Stay cool; ask them nicely if they would like help to pack or maybe a ride to the airport?
(The writer has done MS in English Literature from Lahore Leads University and can be reached through [email protected])