(Published on The Huffington Post, May 21, 2015)
One of the big advantages of getting older is that your children eventually grow up and move away. For some reason, when my kids turned 18 they ran out of the house as fast as they could, kissed the ground, and mumbled something about “Free at last!” But after lengthy therapy sessions they now visit occasionally, and that’s is a good thing. They even let me watch their kids, after I pass a 50-point checklist and agree to security cameras and breathalyzer tests.
After they left, I turned one of their rooms into the guest room. That means I have a place to dry laundry on the bed, cram bags of unread mail into the closet, and ignore the cobwebs that loop from lamp to window like delicate lace décor.
I’m thrown into a panic when I know guests will spend the night. I gather clutter into garbage bags and toss them into the garage where they languish for months. I frantically dust and am amazed at the true color of the furniture. Once I used a vacuum hose to capture the cobwebs, but I accidentally sucked up the curtains and broke the rod. Now I just wave a towel around and hope to catch the webs before the evil spider seeks revenge and jumps up my nose. I hate spiders in my nose.
I enjoy sharing time and space with friends, but there is an important rule when having houseguests: Don’t make it too comfortable. If you include little dishes of individual, scented soaps, a collection of salacious books, and a small refrigerator stocked with wine and cheese, expect them to set up residence and never leave. You’ll have a problem when they forward their mail to your house. That’s a bad thing.
Grandma Clell, my paternal grandmother, always opened her home to weary travelers, visiting relatives, and runaway granddaughters. Though quite the hostess, she had rules that no one should stay longer than necessary. I have improvised some of those rules for myself when I have houseguests who don’t want to leave:
1. Take them to the airport early. Preferably two days before their flight.
2. Cook naked.
3. Have cockroach traps on the dining table.
4. Hide a condom in their bed.
5. Stock the guest bathroom with one Hello Kitty towel and four sheets of toilet paper.
6. Loudly play polka music featuring the Six Fat Dutchmen.
7. Serve burned toast and one sausage — for dinner.
8. Host a meeting of your Toenail Biters Support Group.
9. Close your bedroom door and continually play the fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally.
10. Answer your cell phone, scream “Oh no!” run out of the house, and get a hotel room.
11. Buy several pairs of the biggest size of men’s underwear you can find — and leave them drying on the couch.
12. Show movies of your colonoscopy.
13. Experience bouts of uncontrollable flatulence.
14. Have the TV channel stuck on FOX News.
15. Remind them that you’ll need to search their suitcase for the missing silverware.
16. Stare at them for a long time and ask them to repeat their name because you just can’t remember it.
17. Throw utility bills on the counter and cry into a towel.
18. Clip your toenails during breakfast.
19. Sing and dance in your underwear to “Uptown Funk.”
20. Buy a pet goat and let it run through the house. What do you have to lose?
If all these suggestions don’t work, you may need to take drastic measures and move away. That worked for my kids.