It’s 9 am as I write this. I’m already showered and wearing jean shorts in place of my ratty boxers, and have haphazardly smeared a concealer under my eyes in an effort to look somewhat pulled together. This is because I’m not in my own home, but in the home of someone else, and while I’m here (or any place that isn’t mine for that matter) I deem the dry-drool-on-the-face look as inappropriate, and make sure to wash and moisturize before surfacing.
My dear friend has invited me to stay with her and her beautiful family for the weekend. Tia, her hunky husband, and their beautiful 11-month-old daughter will be hosting me for three glorious nights. This translates into approximately nine meals, three showers (four if I squeeze in a run), and somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 hours of self-imposed stress.
Being somewhere aside from my own home means smoking less, wearing a bra, and watching my language, especially around the young one. You’d think that I’d appreciate the cleaner breathing, extra support, and opportunity to speak like the lady I was raised to be, but really I’m just writhing with anxiety, sitting here in something other than my sleep clothes.
Being someone’s guest comes with a gamut of pressures. No matter how much I say I like the break from my own life (“OMG it’s so good to get a break from my own life!”), there are still a few little things that make these vacations from reality double as an exercise in deep breathing, self-soothing, and quiet, introspective suffering.
1. I feel utterly useless
It seems that it’s the inborn nature of a host to decline help at all costs. Be it in the kitchen, with the cleaning, or even with the grocery bill. Notwithstanding the fact that I’m a terrible cook, watching someone else prepare meals for me while I sit there idly can only be described as painful. When I ask if I can do anything, and I’m told to “just relax,” all I want to do is explode into a million pieces all over their stylish open-concept living space. Then we’ll see how much they enjoy cleaning after me.
2. I feel like a child again
Perhaps it’s because “my roof; my rules” was essentially a household mantra growing up, but when I’m visiting friends, I feel the need to ask permission for everything. In the last 12-or-so hours, I have asked permission to walk to the store, to have a shower, and to make a phone call on their landline. Each time I ask, my hosts look at me with that you’re-a-grown-ass-woman-why-in-God’s-name-are-you-asking? expression. Although I know it’s silly, I can’t stop myself. For example, I’d really like to have a second cup of coffee right now, but I’m just waiting for my friend to return to the kitchen so I can request her blessing.
3. I feel ashamed of my normal bodily functions
Point blank: Pooping in someone else’s washroom is always unpleasant. I know everybody does it, but that does not detract from how I feel having to sneak off unnoticed, packing matches in my back pocket, and performing a kind of game day, locker room speech in my head so as to motivate myself like The Little Engine That Could. I do this because the alternative to having a bowel movement is holding it in, and holding it in just creates more chaos for me in the long run when I go home.
4. I feel like I should have brought a better gift
Like any good houseguest would, I thought to bring a gift. I opted to purchase a basket, and fill it with things like candles, soaps, and coasters. Now, after expressing my need to do a load of laundry at some point during my stay, inquiring about why they’ve chosen to use powdered milk replacement rather than real milk, and asking for a tuna can in which to place my cigarette butts, I worry that I should have filled the wicker basket with Bounce sheets, dairy products, and one of my beautiful (read: horrid) handmade ashtrays instead.
5. I feel as though I can’t assess my own wants and needs
Every time I am asked what I want to do, all I can conceive to answer with is, “What do YOU want to do?” The same goes for eating, watching and listening. Being someone’s guest suddenly robs me of my ability to discern my own preferences. Should my host reveal that she rides a unicycle as her sole form of fitness, unicycle riding will instantly become my favourite pastime as well, and I will gingerly agree to spend the day with a rock-hard, semi-cylindrical apparatus jammed up against my labia. (It would be really easy to make a sex joke here, but there’s a baby within earshot.)