Tuesday, April 04, 2006


One of the drawbacks of Spring in the City, particularly when one lives in an up-and-coming area (and it seems that Pretty Lady inevitably ends up in these areas) is the enthusiastic renewal of heavy-duty construction as soon as the weather warms up slightly. This morning seemed particularly unfair; the jackhammers were hammering as of 8 AM on both sides of Pretty Lady's apartment. She doesn't get good sleep processing when the hammers are outside her bedroom window, but when she finally drags herself vertical and finds them in the kitchen as well, she starts thinking about Fleeing Upstate for a few days.

Unfortunately, Pretty Lady has Parted Ways with her friend who owns the mansion upstate. It was a wrench, but it had to be done. Pretty Lady has a new set of rules; she only visits the homes of bona fide Adults. Crashing in the home of a toddler with a car and a credit card had simply become too draining.

Now, Pretty Lady in her time has been a professional houseguest. She doesn't stint; she provides Value for Bedsheets. She has been known to show up with a trunkful of grocery bags and make Indian food and cinnamon rolls from scratch, for a party of eighteen. In the past she would arrive at the Upstate Mansion and, finding it in a state of depression-induced chaos, have the fires roaring, candles burning, furniture brushed, dishes washed, floors clean, laundry spinning, and turkey in the oven within two hours. Her friend the Flaky Heiress would express shame and gratitude in the same breath; "I'll cook for you tomorrow," she would declare.

"Don't you mind it," Pretty Lady would reply. "I like to do this. I am a Compulsive Cozifier."

"You should put that in a personal ad," said F.H.

However, when Pretty Lady entered the kitchen in yoga attire and found a note on the living room door one morning, it was the Beginning of the End. The note read, "The living room isn't such a good yoga studio this morning. The dog had an accident. Smiley Face! --Love, Flaky Heiress."

If you will believe it, Pretty Lady actually felt mildly guilty for failing to immediately enter the living room and clean up the dog diarrhea on the floor, even though she herself owns no dog and is not particularly a Dog Person. This particular dog was in an advanced state of brain cancer, and this was the fact that had induced Flaky Heiress' depression in the first place. However, Pretty Lady felt that a mild, joshing remonstrance was in order.

"You know, it would have taken you about as much time to clean up the diarrhea as it did to write that note," she said. Flaky Heiress giggled at her own endearing quirks.

Two days later, Pretty Lady's back was seriously hurting from dearth of yoga practice. The living room was still an animal latrine. Sometime around noon, while F.H. was still in bed, Pretty Lady finally started in on the diarrhea. She got most of it up, stiff and hardened as it was, but when attacking the cat box she was stymied by lack of a litter scoop.

"Flaky Heiress!" she finally called. "Where is the cat litter scoop?"

"Don't clean it up, I'll do it," said F.H., sleepily, from her chamber.

"Just tell me where it is," said Pretty Lady.

"There isn't one. I know how to do it. You don't have to clean up the cat shit."

"My back hurts, you are still in bed, I am not making you get out of bed, I just need to know how to get the cat box clean," said moi, betraying the first hint of exasperation and distress.

Flaky Heiress appeared majestically in her peignoir, and took Pretty Lady firmly to task. "You need to MAKE me take care of my responsibilities," she declared, in a tone of injured maternality.

At that point, Pretty Lady came close to bursting into tears, but restrained herself, and allowed F.H. to finish with the cat box, in her preferred, arcane manner. There the matter rested, for a time.

The details of the further deterioration of Pretty Lady's friendship with the Flaky Heiress do not need to be entered into, on this occasion; the perceptive reader will perhaps be able to imagine them clearly enough. However, Pretty Lady feels an overwhelming need to spell out a Houseguest Bill of Rights, which she follows religiously in her own home, and which she tacitly expects of any Host who invites her to spend the night for any reason.

1. A Houseguest has the right to a place to sleep, pillow, clean bedsheets, and a clean bath towel, which are to be provided by the host at the appropriate moment, without the Guest having to inquire as to their availability or whereabouts, long after the moment of necessity has arrived.

2. A Houseguest has the right to sleep as long as he or she requires, within the bounds of practicality; if the Guest's sleeping location is required for commercial purposes at any time, the Guest must be informed of this fact well in advance.

3. A Houseguest has the right to wake up and quietly putter around whenever and for however long he or she desires, as long as the Houseguest does not expect the host to do the same.

4. A Houseguest has the right to procure his or her own standard-time and standard-issue meals, in the absence of formally planned events. If the Houseguest has peculiar dietary requirements, the Host must be informed well in advance; it is a huge bonus if the Houseguest provides his or her own spelt, wheatgrass and psyllium powder. The Host is not required to provide any particular meal content, but failure to inform Houseguest of the location of suitable grocery stores constitutes a breach of Hosthood. Thus, the reply "I never eat breakfast," when asked as to the local availability of such staples as eggs, milk, and bread, is an unacceptable response.

5. A Houseguest has the right to an interior environment free of at-large fecal material at all times. Pretty Lady scours the cat box daily, particularly when her mother comes to visit.

6. When a Host has a Large Party wherein second-tier guests are expected to camp in the field, for God's sake get one of your neighbors with a tractor to mow the field. Pretty Lady slept in a five-foot high, slug-infested grass field last summer, and she is never attending that Solstice Bonfire Celebration ever again.

In conclusion: A Houseguest's position is a peculiarly vulnerable one, and all would-be Hosts would do well to respect this. A Houseguest, no matter how self-sufficient, resourceful, and considerate, is by definition Not In Control of his or her situation, and relatively dependent upon the Host for life's basic necessities. It is perfectly fine for a Host to be free-wheeling; it is not okay for a Host to be utterly irresponsible. When a Host invites a Houseguest to visit, with the ulterior motive of unloading basic household-maintenance responsibilities onto somebody else, tension and exploded friendships will inevitably result.


Anonymous said...

Benjamin Franklin had an opinion of houseguests:

"Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days."

BoysMom said...

An addition to #2 and #3, if I may suggest.
If the Guest is sleeping in an area likely to be invaded by small children at any time of day, or if small children are likely to interfere with puttering, the Host should inform the Guest of this well prior to the Guest's arrival.
Also, if the Guest is coming with small children, it is the Host's responsibility to remove any object both breakable and precious to the Host, and normally placed within the children's reach, from the area the children and Guest will be in to a safe place: no matter how well behaved the children, accidents happen.

Chris C. said...

I always seems to be living somewhere that others want to visit, and Houseguest Matters never fall off my list of popular topics. Whether my home is in the middle of a city where hotels are prohibitive, or in the middle of the country where there are no hotels, I have had at least my share of stay-over visitors.

You have done me an inestimable service, Pretty Lady, by issuing this manifesto. Clarification of responsibility is a first step in liberation.

Plus, you crack me up.


Pretty Lady said...

Morgan and Boysmom, thank you for the child addenda--having none of my own, and having an apartment too small to contain the children of others, I committed a shameful omission.

Dandy, we have very similar travails. The manifesto was long overdue. I suggest posting it on the refrigerator, next to the rules and regulations of the Divine Hotel in Philadelphia.

Clay, dear, everyone in the world learns that Ben Franklin quote by third grade. You are fired for Insufficient Wit.

Anonymous said...

Ah, you have no idea how thrilled I am that I found your site, and can now sit down in the midst of a full-blown toddler fit and indulge in your blissfully soothing narration.

Re: cinnamon rolls from scratch: If I were not already wed, I would propose that we elope to Canada, and, if possible, sweeten the offer with large amounts of stolen cash and pawnable-if-tacky jewelry.

The Aardvark said...

Perhaps a how-to seminar, live or on DVD is in order.
The marketing possibilities are amazing, and the NEED is staggering.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

Probably for the best. No wonder I couldn't pay my bills.