How To Be A Bad Houseguest

For the past two week, The One And Only (TOAO) and I have been sharing our house with guests. Two guests, almost back to back. The first guest was fine. The first guest was fun, got on great with my friends, and taught me how to make frybread. The first guest is not the subject of this entry.

No, the subject of this week's journal entry is the second guest.

The second guest - SG for short - was, well, not fine. I knew going into it that she wasn't the most laid-back person in the world; a number of people I know have issues with her and her "corrosive personality," as one of them put it. She was coming here to defend her dissertation, and while our relationship was more an acquaintanceship than a friendship, no one wants to see a fellow grad student suffer. When she asked, I said sure, she could stay here in case her other plan fell through (which, of course, it did). I figured it would be ok. I figured that, even though she wasn't easy to deal with, and even though she'd be stressed, she'd be on guest behavior, and we would all manage.

Boy, was I wrong.

So, as a public service, I've compiled what I learned this week into a handy-dandy list on How To Be A Bad Houseguest.

Now, before you read this list, I should say that I wrote it while I was pretty much at my most pissed off. It's fairly snarky, and if I were to sit down and rewrite it now, I'd probably put it differently. In fact, I might not write it at all. See, she kind of backed off later on in the visit - I think she figured out that she was really stressing us out because we were just avoiding being at home - and at the end, she actually began to apologize. It was far too little, too late, but at least she did become aware of how her behavior was affecting us, and felt kind of bad about it. And yeah, I know she was stressed too. But, as those friends I vented to during the week know, it was pretty much hell while it was happening, and quite frankly, I'm too exhausted from it all to rewrite this. So take it for what it's worth, a product of its times - and given #3, she'll probably never see this anyway, although even if she does, she's one of very few people who've pushed me beyond the point where I worry what she might think.

I will also add that I can forgive doing one of the things on this list, or even a couple. Hell, when you're staying in my house, I want to forgive you - it minimizes the conflict! But if you do them all, and more, well, then, you become a cautionary tale.

You want to know how bad it was? I was begging people to have evening meetings so I'd have an excuse to be out of the house. TOAO and I made surreptitious dinner plans, sneaking out of the house individually to rendezvous at a nearby restaurant, because we figured that if we cooked at home, we'd only hear about how substandard our food / cooking skills / kitchen were, and even if that didn't happen, we couldn't stomach another hour of her self-centered bitterness. I'm telling you, it was bad, and if you want to know how bad it was, well… here we go...

How To Be A Bad Houseguest

1. Complain. Complain about the quality of your housing. Complain about the scary neighborhood. Complain about how loud the neighbor's party was, and that you thought some of the neighbor's party friends were going to sneak into the back yard, rip open the doors, and threaten you. Complain that it's too cold in the room where you're staying. Complain that it's too cold in the state. Complain that you don't like the state you live in, either. Complain about the host's cats and how one of them ripped your sweatshirt in ways that, upon examination, aren't really possible. Complain that the cat in question keeps eyeing your new business suit. Complain that the cat, who has heretofore impressed most everyone with his sociability, is, in fact, evil. Complain that you are likely to be attacked by giant bugs because it's all so sketchy. (Then leave open containers of food in the room, in case the bugs hadn't figured out why they'd want to be in there.)

1a. For best results, start the complaining as soon as you arrive.

2. Say this: "Wow, yeah, I was kinda shocked at what the house looked like - you know, I wanted to start cleaning - but I have to keep reminding myself, 'this is not my house.'" Never mind that your host's house, while not Martha Stewart clean, would pass the average grad student's inspection just fine. You are not the average grad student, and you have the right to expect more.

3. Say this: "Psht. Why would anyone want to read your website?" Make sure you get the derisive tone right. This, at least, assures your host that you will never find these tips on how to be a bad houseguest.

4. Never do your own dishes. Leave them in the sink for your hosts to clean up. It's just a little gesture that shows how little you care.

5. Antagonize the pets. Pet the cat when he clearly doesn't want to be petted. Continue petting and prodding him until he paws at you to get you to stop. Continue petting until he gives up being nice and scratches you. Then complain that the cat attacked you without provocation. Complain for the next several days about the cat's unpredictable temper and lack of intelligence.

6. Be in the bathroom when your host needs it if he's going to get to work on time. When you've been specifically asked not to be in the bathroom between 7:30 and 8 am because your host needs to be out of there by 8 am to get to work, you can show your lack of concern for your hosts by being in the bathroom at just that time, in spite of earlier conversations on the subject and a reminder note on the door.

6a. If you want to add insult to injury, you can also later complain to the other host that a) of course you weren't in the bathroom at the time but b) gosh the host is silly because he's so much taller and hung the note so high that you couldn't even see it, what was he thinking. (No matter that it was an 8½-inch-long, 3½-inch-wide piece of white paper on a brown door that was visible to others two rooms over.) Not, of course, that it even mattered, because - see a) - you weren't in there at the time. But you just wanted to point out how, er, foolish the host is.

7. Make plans to go out for the evening. Return an hour later. In fact, don't spend more than a few hours away from the house at any time. Hey, if all your friends seem to want to call it quits after an hour with you, well, you always have the hosts to complain to - they're stuck there!

8. At any time of the day, start talking at your hosts. Doesn't matter if they appear to be working. Or having a conversation. Or anything. It can't be that important. Not as important as your complaints, anyway. So just talk at them. Loudly. Tell them all about your trials and tribulations. Their work and lives pale in comparison to yours. You know this, which is why you don't ever have to ask them about their work or lives.

9. Assume that anything you do wrong can be made up for by a few purchases. Nothing says "I forgot to care" like a bit of money. You don't ever need to say "Thank you" if you spend a bit of money on your host. The host, in fact, should be thanking you.

10. Never say "Thank you." Why should you? The accommodations are substandard anyway.


14. November 2003


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