How to Deal with Difficult House Guests

(The Drawing Room at Townshend House, Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

A few people had (ahem) comments about my friend who ever-so-slightly drugged her in-laws [ Organizing Guest Rooms (for when you like your Guests) ] so I thought I should put this story into context.

Dear friend Antonietta met a charming man and, after dating for a while, went to meet his parents. They were very chatty, but she is a little shy/ introverted so it was fine letting them carry the conversation. And in other meetings, there were other people around so Antonietta never had to carry the brunt of the verbal barrage.

Then she moved overseas and they came to visit. The parents-in-law talked from the first moment at the airport until 11pm. The next morning, the mother-in-law knocked on her bedroom door, “Are you ok? It’s 7am and you are still sleeping. I wanted to make sure you aren’t sick.” And proceeded to chat non-stop all day. If Antonietta was in the bathroom for more than five minutes, her mother-in-law would start talking to her through the door.

Antonietta talked to husband and husband talked to mother-in-law about how Antonietta liked to sleep in. But two minutes after he had left for work: Knock, knock, “I am sorry I can’t find the nice tea cup I used yesterday.” So before she went to bed Antonietta put everything one could possibly need for breakfast on the counter, yet 2 minutes after her husband had left for work: Knock, knock, “I would like to make you breakfast, what would you like?”

Three days without a moment to herself and Antonietta was going mad, so she talked to husband, husband talked to his mom, his mom started crying and his dad announced that she would pack and leave as they weren’t wanted. Husband asked Antonietta to please make an effort and get up early for the two-week visit. Antonietta looked at the future – years of visits with this kind of torture by chatting and knew she had to do something. But what?

That night after dinner, as husband was taking care of the conversation and she was in the kitchen preparing the coffee and dessert, she realized that parents-in-law had been drinking over ten cups of coffee and tea a day. Hmmmm. She found some almost expired decaf in the back of the cupboard, dumped out the instant coffee and poured the decaf into that container.

Then she sent messages to friends who rallied round as you do when you live overseas in a small community. One found decaf ground coffee and one found decaf tea bags. They switched labels, stuffed the canisters and boxes in their purses, came to visit, made excuses to go into the kitchen and by the next afternoon, there was not a speck of caffeine in Antonietta’s house. Parents-in-law went down for an afternoon nap and Antonietta sat on the sofa breathing in the peace of a silent house. She made a lovely dinner, served decaf coffee with a crushed melatonin; they were in bed by 10pm and didn’t wake up until 9am.

Antonietta was wild with joy. The parents-in-law had headaches, which required more naps and Antonietta gradually adjusted doses so that they got half-caf coffee in the morning to get them going, then it was back to unleaded. They left, assuming all the naps were the result of being overseas, but mysteriously,  all visits resulted in the same strange tiredness as Antonietta got professional about switching labels. It got to the point where she could lift off the air-tight seal on a canister of coffee, replace it with decaf and reseal without anyone noticing.  

Eventually, Antonietta’s children absorbed some of the conversations so she could manage but, over the years, there were times when they somehow snuck in a triple espresso and Antonietta added crushed melatonin to their lunch-time lemonade. One does what one must to get by.

Organizing Guest Rooms (for when you like your Guests)

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

Coping with House Guests who are Oddly Unlike You

1001 Reasons to Behave: The Etiquette-Fairy Tale Connection

(The Drawing Room at Townshend House, Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

Anna-Alma-Tadema - the drawing room house