On Guests

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Guests

Feudal Manners

In the Middle Ages, back when humans lived in castles and fought dragons, being a guest was the best. A sworn enemy, if approaching a neighboring castle with an earnest need of a place to stay, would be put up. Seeking asylum, guests were treated with care and respect and all previous disagreements were tossed aside for the time being. To be a host was the land’s greatest honor.

Things are slightly different today. Being a guest is somewhat of a lost experience, at least in the medieval sense. People are much less honored to put others up, especially strangers or sworn enemies that may appear on their doorstep. In general, people seem to be more protective over their private space and once they go back to it after a hard day’s work, they don’t want to be bothered with much.

The Joy of Hosting

Guests are what make a house a home. The host gets a new idea of what they are like as an individual and also of how their home functions. Guests can bring out the best, as well as traits that a host may need to work on, as long as the host is receptive and willing to accept shortcomings.

The best hosts are adaptable. They need to have a plan for their guest, but be willing to change it at a moment’s notice. The worst thing that a host can feel is that they are babysitting their guest, (unless the host is a babysitter and the guest is a kid).

There needs to be some foundation for the visitor’s stay, but after that, anything should go. Matters of cleanliness and matters of etiquette should be dealt with on a case by case basis, to ensure that neither party becomes uncomfortable. But a guest can either be comfortable or uncomfortable. There’s no in between.

As I’m writing this, there are two guests visiting with me in my bedroom. Their needs take precedent over my own. I know they don’t mean to intrude, but inevitably that is the nature of being a guest. And the good host must always accommodate. (To be honest, I think they’re having a pretty good time.)

The best hosts I’ve encountered have pretty much given me free reign over their castles. With so much freedom, I’ve learned to respect others more and to be more giving and gracious to those that I help out, having been helped out myself in such hospitable ways. I think homes are meant to be private, and as a guest, there are always rooms or places that are out of bounds.

Museum Rooms

But some people’s homes are funny. Certain rooms are off limits to everyone, including the host; the rooms in question may be a living room that looks straight out of a museum sans the velvet ropes. I’ve never understood rooms like these. I’m a fond believer that a house should be lived in and space and possessions utilized.

Whenever I stay at a home that has a museum room, I make it a point to jump on the couches and leave condensation rings on the Spanish oak end tables. Dragging a soot-covered fireplace poker across Persian rugs is another personal favorite of mine. It’s the least you can do as a guest to get some use out of an otherwise unused room.

“You’re Welcome”

A lot of what it takes to be a good guest is respect, even if you have an affinity for rifling through other people’s stuff. Searching through other people’s stuff is an exhilarating venture, but not a recommended one. A guest needs to be careful of what they may uncover.

When the stay becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, it’s time to move on. Don’t linger; don’t overstay your welcome. Because after you thank your host, and they tell you that you’re welcome, it’s nice to know they genuinely mean it.

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