January 15th, 2012 11:42 EST
Make Yourself at Home
"Make yourself at home," is what we tell our house guests. And we mean it. I need my house guests to feel comfortable enough to help themselves from the refrigerator, so that I don`t have to wait on them hand and foot. And most importantly, I hope they will treat my home with respect. The kind of respect that applies in their own homes.
Well my last house guest did not make herself quite as at home as I had hoped. Sure she ate my food and commanded the remote control, but compared to her own tidy home, where shoes are not allowed, she clearly felt that my home was not worthy of the same regard.
June arrived off the plane with a nasty sniffle. Blowing through an entire box of tissues, she explained that she must have contracted some form of the Black Death from those nasty Petri dishes known as airplane seats. I certainly empathized. After a flight, my first instinct is to strip, shower and apply fresh clothing.
As her nose turned red, her eyes black and the rest of her a scary, post-mortem green, she asked to lie down. I pointed her to my bedroom, handing her a bath towel and showing her the location of the bathroom on the way. Meantime I continued preparing the bed in the guest room.
I had expected that she would either stop to shower, or perhaps remove her outer clothing, before flopping onto the bed. But when I returned to the room an hour later, I found June under my sheets, fully clothed except for her shoes. Fighting back the urge to retch, I woke her and sent her to the spare room that was now ready with fresh sheets, whereupon she jumped under the covers still fully clothed and returned to her slumber. Three days later both my husband and I were sick, which was not helped by the fact that I was eight months pregnant.
In the following days, June`s level of cleanliness did not improve. The kitchen seemed to spontaneously explode just by her entering it. Chocolate powder never quite made it into the glass, butter never quite onto the bread, and when the soup bubbled out of the pan, she made no attempt to clean the stove. Instead, she grabbed her tenth box of tissues, blew her nose and slumped off into the living room.
And finally there was the dog. We repeatedly asked her to keep the fuzzy little creature off the furniture, but were ignored every time. Anyone who lives with children knows what it`s like to nag someone a hundred times, only to have them ignore you. It turned out that June had decided that the dog on her lap, was not the same as the dog on the couch. Well silly me.
Eventually, the dog, having figured out long before its owner that it was unwelcome on the furniture, chose to settle on a tapestry that lay folded on the floor. As I entered the living room to find the dog clawing into the beautiful wedding gift that we had planned to hang on our wall, whilst June ignored the whole thing, I finally lost my cool.
"What is she doing?" I yelled.
"Burrowing," replied June. "It`s what she does. She has terrier in her."
"Well she`s gonna have a knife in her if you don`t get her claws out of my tapestry."
Did my house guest apologize? Absolutely not. She fixed me with wounded eyes as she lifted the dog back onto the couch.
Finally June left, at which point I would have heaved a sigh of relief were my nose not so blocked that I couldn`t breathe.
June came and went without leaving us gift.
In spite of everything, I was sad to see her go. Not because I enjoyed having my house treated worse than a rock star`s hotel room, but because she is a friend whose company I enjoy. When I was not busy wondering whether rats would move in, I enjoyed scouring the city together in search of the best hot chocolate. And being chocoholics is just one of the many things that bind us, not to mention how much I enjoy our conversations that last for hours. All of this is why we became friends. My husband has officially banned her from the house, and I certainly agree with him, but can I realistically ban her from my house without banning her from my life?
If I tell June that she was a terrible house guest, she will no doubt be offended, justify herself fiercely and artfully turn it around so that I wind up in the wrong. Isn`t that what we all do when faced with criticism? To quote Dale Carnegie, "Let`s realize that the person we are going to correct and condemn will probably justify himself or herself, and condemn us in return."
With that in mind, I have chosen not to confront June. And though she thinks our friendship is intact, I can`t help but resent her. Not so much because she disrespected my home, as because she would never admit to it or apologize for it. Having said that I am pretty certain that one pleasant visit with June on neutral territory, is all it will take to cure my anger. After all, she is charming and I`ve already mentioned that I like her. But even when I am ready to forgive her, I know my husband never will be, and that June will have to remain forever banned from our home.
Dr Annabelle R Charbit