Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gracious Guests and Happy Holiday Hosts

Preface: I wrote this little bit of tongue-and-cheek scribbling last year after a particularly trying holiday season. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the holidays, but I feel it’s in our best interest to review our behavior before we begin making our travel and party plans. Enjoy!

My grandmother, who’s just shy of her ninety-first birthday, keeps her home temperature at 140 degrees. On Christmas day, she usually entertains about 2,000 relatives (maybe not that many, but it sure seems like it at times) her in small house….all of whom become hot, sweaty messes within an hour. No one complains about the heat, though, at least not to Nanny’s face because a) it’s rude, and b) Nanny still hits really hard.

Having learned the finer aspects of being a gracious guest very early in life (“We’re all hot; just go outside and roll yourself in the snow!”), I’m compelled to review with you the finer points of what to do when spending the holidays in someone else’s home. I say review because, honestly, deep down, I know you know these things. Yet friends, family, neighbors, and clients have all relayed to me truly horrific tales of truly horrifying guests over the years.

Any hostess worth her salt will inform guests ahead of time of any home issue that might inconvenience her guests (broken heater, low water pressure, a sick cat, etc.) That’s your cue to figure out how to accommodate yourself (bring along a sweater and leave the extra-sudsy shampoo at home). It is incredibly rude to point out the obvious, especially if she’s already pointed it out. Doing so WILL embarrass her, WILL hurt her feelings, and WILL result in her silent vow never to have you back. Should Fluffy’s hairball issue prove too much to bear, feel free to politely excuse yourself and go home (but only after thanking your hostess for a wonderful time).

Body odor is never an acceptable form of protest. If problems exist with your host’s plumbing, you still must find a way to practice good hygiene.

Remember the old saying, “Guests and fish start to stink after three days” (and in some cases, after three minutes). Never overstay your welcome. If you notice your hostess yawning or appearing glassy-eyed, take the hint and leave. (A side note: if you’re co-hosting a ‘do, never tell your co-host, “I told so-and-so-to come over whenever”. By golly, you better call so-and-so back and tell them a specific time -2:00-2:30 sounds nice. Time frames are helpful and provide hope).

Never turn on the television in someone else’s home, unless you’re invited to do so. If you must catch ‘the big game’, there’s probably a lovely sports bar just around the corner.

If you’re an overnight guest, learn and live the rules of the house and always pick up after yourself. Keep your bags and toiletries tidy and as inconspicuous as possible.

Leave your dog at home unless your host gives you the okay to bring him. Don’t yell at other guests if Fido happens to make a run for it out of an opened door. Fido is your responsibility.

Having small children does not give you permission to tell others how to baby-proof their homes. Your hostess may like sharp objects – that’s why she doesn’t have kids. Take heart, though: a hostess with enough snap is already one step ahead of you, and has caged her pet raccoon and locked up her nunchucks.

Don’t take the liberty of dusting someone else’s home, unless you’re asked to do so. A guest who asks, “You know what would make this room look really good?” deserves to be smacked in the gob, so watch it.

Don’t bring brussell sprouts to a party.

If your hostess keeps a framed photo of a certain ‘80’s pop star on her desk, it’s okay to say, “My goodness, you’re so silly,” (trust me, she knows she is), “Hey, look, it’s that guy!” or “My god, that man still looks fantastic after all these years!” (because he does). It’s not okay to say, “Why on earth would you have that?” Your hostess may be tempted to respond with, “Why on earth would you wear those shoes in public?” But your hostess has class, and would never point out something she feels is ridiculous.

If the topic of conversation is the return of the legging, it’s a safe bet no one wishes to discuss the state of the economy. Parties and FOX News do not mix.

Remain mindful of your volume. If you notice other guests going to another room to chat, covering their ears, or waiting by the door for the cops to show up regarding noise complaints, that means you’re probably too loud.

If the party invitation states BYOB, then do it.

A huge difference lies between “Pour me another” and “Call me a cab”. Know your booze limits, and never assume your host will allow you access to her guest room, couch, or front lawn if you pass out.

If you notice a small fire in the bathroom, please alert your host immediately.

Our homes are our sanctuaries, and we should all feel honored when invited into someone’s home. We must remain on our best behavior at all times, even with our closest of kin and best of friends. We expect our children to act accordingly, and they certainly won’t learn that lesson unless we lead by example. Good guests are rewarded with invitations to come back, the fancy coffee (‘not the swill we serve everyone else, Darlene’), and increased admiration. Practice the Golden Rule, my friends, and treat others’ homes they way you’d like for yours to be treated.

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