The Unwelcome Guest

I sometimes think that a spare bedroom is a curse. It is one of those nightmare provisions which lead you into being unable to say “no” to people you dislike most who have the audacity to suggest that they come to stay with you for a very long time.

Nowadays, when we are all pressed for time and for labour and every woman in England is doing a great deal more than she should in a great deal less time than it ought to require, it is important that any visitor should take her share of the housework.

Lay this down at the beginning. Don’t be put off by the gay, flighty little friend who says “Darling, I’ll do anything you wish, as long as I can have my breakfast in bed, but I admit I’m simply unbearable if I don’t get that. Give me that, and I’ll work like a slave all day.”

It is easier to be firm at the beginning of the visit than at the end. In the end it is going to be a row. Be quite plain spoken about it. No breakfast in bed. After all, if she doesn’t like it, let her go to one of the friends who will tolerate it.

You may think that this seems to be a rude angle to adopt, but if you allow a guest to come and saddle herself on you and work you to death, the answer is that sooner or later you will lose your temper and let fly, because you are so tired out; after that you’ll never speak to one another again. That is the logical outcome of this kind of thing, and it won’t do.

At the outset you can be firm about it in a way that does not betoken a row. You can be definite. If she comes to stay with you she must take her place and share with the work in the home. Today guests should make their own beds and give a hand with laying meals and washing-up after them. I think that is only a fair conclusion to arrive at myself.

Put a limit on the visit at the start. We all know the guest who stays on and stays on. Usually it is the one who comes in the beginning under the guise of doing you a kindness, and will not go. It is exceedingly awkward to ask a guest to go, more so if it is somebody you like. You think of all manner of stupid excuses, because you dare not tell them the truth. The truth is a bit too much, you feel. Immediately you start to invent silly excuses you have rung your own death knell, because unfortunately the feebleness of the excuse shows and nobody really likes it.

It is far easier to say “I’m afraid I can only put you up for the week-end because I get so tired”—not because you have somebody else coming, PLEASE—then, if you find you get on like a house on fire, you can ask her to stay longer. You can’t do this if you have invented an imaginary guest, of course, and have stymied your own long shot.

I have long ago ceased having guests to stay, because they have worn me to a frazzle and always go away when they find we are dead sick of one another and I have arrived at the weepy stage through sheer exhaustion.


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