A few days ago we waved goodbye to a Canadian couple we had hosted for a week. I did not jump up and down with glee as they drove out of sight, and I also made an effort not to mention too often my relief at having the place to ourselves again, although my inner conversations weren’t so disciplined.
They were perfectly nice people. Considerate guests and independent explorers, they chipped in for groceries and offered to make a meal. They didn’t stay up late or get up too early, and complimented me on my cooking, always in superlatives. (Enough to make one doubt their sincerity).
There were two problems, one being that we barely knew them, and the other was, well, that we barely knew them.
Impulsively, I had asked Mr Guest many months ago if he would be interested in coming to the South of France to give lessons to our small group of pickleball players. He is a very capable instructor, and trading coaching for accommodation seemed like a win-win. He came across as an amenable fellow and after a quick mental run-through of the potential visit, I couldn’t imagine a downside. We invited him and his wife for dinner and didn’t get any red flags.
How easily I forget that I’m an introvert. I don’t like sharing my private space, unless with people I know well whose company I enjoy (yes, that’s you I’m talking about). To have asked virtual strangers to come and stay for a week or more was totally outside my comfort zone, but I was blithe. The benefits would far outweigh any possible discomfort.
And that was true. The players, including the two of us, got some excellent instruction and I’m now optimistic about doing better in tournaments, with a bit (a lot) of practice of the skills he taught us.
But what was really disappointing was to find that, even at my apparent level of maturity, I’m incapable to remaking myself as a someone who’s tolerant and accepting of other people’s foibles. (A foible, I see, is also the weak point of a sword blade, between the centre and the tip. So says the Free Dictionary).
After-dinner conversations were gold-medal tedium, one-way exposés of bargains found and mishaps avoided. And the humour was, to put it gently, unsophisticated. That may have been the worst, actually. When somebody is genuinely funny, laughter glosses over other potential annoyances, but when the jokes are in themselves irritating, there’s no hope. Moreso when the teller unfailingly points out that s/he has just made a joke.
I have no excuse for having to make an unnatural effort to remain warm and inclusive, other than not knowing how long they intended to stay. In addition to not fully considering the invitation in the first place, this was a big mistake. At about day four, I was in an agony of indecision as to how to diplomatically approach the issue of their departure date. Fortunately, Mr Guest dove in first, and bluntly asked if I had any complaints about their behaviour. Of course I did not, but it gave me the opening to say it would be good to know how long they would like to stay.
Either he got the message pronto, or he had already planned to leave after a week. We don’t know for sure, and squirm a bit at the thought that maybe we upended their travel budget. In any case, they went off to drive around the region. I stayed nice until the very, very end, although frankly, anybody with a modicum of insight might have noticed my clenched teeth.
Every time I start to feel that a guest is a stone in my shoe, I vow to react differently the next time. I will just relax, laugh it off, remind myself that I too have considerable potential to irritate, and get over it. I will not be territorial about the kitchen (where I feel I have some control) and will not spring up from the table immediately after dinner to load the dishwasher. (This is downright dismissive and something a member of my family does frequently. I get it: neither of us can stand aimless chit-chat, but it’s rude and a teeny bit hurtful).
At this point in my life, my host-testiness is not likely to morph into something kinder. Once again I’ve learned a lesson, but don’t know that there’s any point to it unless I can put it into practice.
But my new pickleball skills? Now there’s some hope for lasting change.