If You Want to be a Host, You Must Also be a Guest

If you want to host people, you must travel yourself so that you remember how it feels to be out of control. It is no fair to invite people to your house if you have not stayed in someone else’s house in the last year.

It is a hard thing to be at the whim of other people’s decisions even for a few days and unless you are certain that your host has had that life-changing experience recently, opt for the hotel. Verily I warn you, Darling, people who are “all give” are often the most selfish of trolls, so beware. To wit: they invite you, are ecstatic when you accept, welcome you with open arms and then, after you have unpacked and settled in, hit you with the 583 house rules.

From an intellectual point of view, it’s fascinating how people who are temperately/ culturally similar to me can make such different life choices. From a practical point of view, it’s overwhelming to go from “throw everything into the garbage disposal” people to “we sort all food waste into these four different containers” people.

There are “dishwasher” people, the “wash each piece of cutlery three times under running water” people and “use the dishpan and turn off the faucet with a wrench to make sure not one drop is wasted” people.

The “Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is ready at 6am” people, the “we have a Nespresso machine and five types of pods” people, the “I think there’s some Nescafe instant in the cupboard coffee” people and the “we don’t believe in caffeine” people.

It’s like being a Goldilocks constantly looking for a house with a baby bear. There’s the “sit at the dinner table and talk over the dirty dishes for 2 hours” people, the “put the dirty dishes in the kitchen as everyone has finished eating” people and the “clear the table and wash the dishes immediately” people.

The “no one is ready for movement or conversation until 10am” people and the “brisk walk at daybreak” people. The “3000 calorie breakfast people” and the “we usually have a thin slice of unbuttered and unjamed whole wheat toast” people.

Of course the best sort of people are the ones who give you some lee-way: “we get up at 5 for hot yoga in the garage but feel free to sleep in if you want” or “we always have mimosas and eggs benedict at 9am, but there’s fruit and oatmeal if you want an earlier breakfast.” Those are the kind of people you want to befriend – the kind of host you want to be.

And the best way to evolve into one of this type is to be a guest yourself. After you have been forced to live by someone else’s standards, you learn to be more flexible about your own.

Alma-Tadema, Anna, 1865-1943; Drawing Room, 1a Holland Park
Drawing Room at Holland Park by Anna Alma-Tadema