Coping with House Guests who are Oddly Unlike You

Gretchen Rubin, right about so many things, has people pegged with her overbuyer – underbuyer dichotomy:

Such a helpful distinction (and way to solve arguments!). I also stand in full approval of her explanation of how some people look for a ‘good enough’ solution and those who want the ‘best possible’ solution:

But there is another contrast to consider:

People who think anything that is expired is still useful and the people who believe products one day past their expiration date are toxic.

As in most matters (how warm should a house be, how soon after waking up should coffee be available, the status of hollandaise sauce and the importance of afternoon naps) I am at extreme variance from the other members of my family. Of course the correct answers are: 82f /27c, 5 minutes, essential and essential but they persist in the folly of believing: 68f/ 20c, 2 hours, unimportant and unimportant. As I have said, genes are fickle and amusing.

Thus I enter the guest bathroom of a relative’s house to find it supplied with toothpaste 3 years expired, mouthwash 2 years expired and aspirin 4 years expired. And shower gel that has been in the tub for lo the last 6 visits, spread out over 8 years. But the place of pride goes to a small container of body lotion that was moved from the previous house to this house 14 years ago. But wait, that lotion was in the house for several years before the move. So the eternal-vial-of-beauty is at least 20 years old.

And we haven’t even started in on the main areas of contention:

Dogs v. cats

Still water v. sparkling

Night owl v. early bird

Eggs undercooked v. overcooked

The two things you need are clarity and compassion.

Tell people how you live so they can know what to expect. Say, “I usually get up at 10am, drink 3 cups of coffee in my dressing gown and am ready for conversation at 10:30am, earliest.” Say, “I get up at 6am and practice primal screaming for half an hour. Then I drink 8 cups of stewed spinach.”

Never assume and never condescend. (Darling, of course your house guests are making the wrong life-choices. They are wrong. They are horribly, terribly, unforgivable wrong but they are also house guests so fall on the sword of mercy and make sure the guest room has a fan AND extra blankets, blackout curtains AND an alarm clock to wake them up at 5am, a coffee dispenser in the kitchen that is easy to use AND a few tea bags, a soft pillow AND a hard pillow, something to eat when they want AND a list of nearby restaurants.)

So after I have tossed out all the expired items, I went to the store and replaced them with identical and new items. (But not, of course, touching the 20-year-old container of lotion as that is now a quasi-holy talisman!)

And now you are complaining. Your “guest room” is the sofa and you can’t afford black-out curtains or… or… Stop complaining. Do the best you can with what you have. As Auntie always says, $20 in a drug store brings happiness. You don’t need Blue Mountain Coffee, Silver Tips Imperial Tea, Trisha Guild curtains, eiderdown pillows and a Fortnum and Mason gift basket. Nescafe, PG Tips/ Celestial Seasonings tea, a sleep mask, clean pillowcases and snacks do the trick.

Make an effort to welcome guests and when you are the guest, appreciate the efforts your hosts make (and if there is something you simply must have, like Auntie requires Bellinis at 11am!) then bring it yourself.

Try to please and be easy to please. Joy.