By: Revanche

Collaborative Hosting

August 3, 2010

aka The Poor Hostess.

We had friends over the other weekend.  By “we” I mean, PiC said they could come stay for the weekend and then took off on a previously planned trip. I kid, we both agreed it’d be great to see them but he had plans he couldn’t change on the same weekend so that left me with them.  And I was fine with that, they’re great fun.  But I realized that I’m not only a less than social creature, I’m not a great hostess.

I have this personal definition or image of a good host: you always have fresh linens on the bed, you have all kinds of goodies in the fridge, cook every meal and clear up afterwards letting your guests be entertained at their leisure. Kind of like the best dinner party slash sleepover ever, right?

But realistically, how on earth does a single person DO all that?

I definitely presided over the cooking/kitchen, there were certainly clean linens for the air mattress, fresh towels in a newly cleaned bathroom and I set it up for them but they helped me with the dishes, used their own towels, and fought with me over every bill.

2 to 1, I was bound to lose some of those fights. And let’s be honest, I’m not really comfortable with the predominantly Asian contact sport known as Give-Me-The-Bill-Or-I’ll-Throw-An-Elbow on a number of levels.

Looking at it from the other side, my cousins, for example, have hosted me (I’m nearly the youngest in that grouping) and they paid for everything, took care of everything, and chased me away from the dishes in the long ago past. That’s where I imprinted the idea of good hosting.  Then again, when I’ve stayed with friends, I’ve done their dishes (and their roommates’), cleared up any messes, and chipped in for meals and household supplies that I used.

So is this a generational thing?  Or am I taking advantage of free labor?

What do you consider good hosting habits?

10 Responses to “Collaborative Hosting”

  1. Jenna says:

    I’m all for clean sheets and towels. Depending on how long people are staying and where they are from. Eating out is usually going to happen a couple of times. And I definitely am all for splitting the bill. Unless of course it is for someone who is younger than me and still in college (but that rarely happens).

  2. I think a good hosts help their guests feel comfortable and welcome…the bills and chores and whatnot are based on a case by case basis. I’ll cover the bills for someone who is low on funds but I’ll split with everyone else.

    The only necessaries in my opinion are clean towels and linens…a guest shouldn’t have to worry about who used that stuff last. 🙂

  3. As a non-Asian who has lived in China (PRoC and RoC), I like your description of the after-dinner ritual. I agree that it doesn’t go over the same here.

  4. eemusings says:

    Having people to stay just wasn’t done in my family. I don’t just mean not having a guest room and no having guests overnight (or longer). I mean, we didn’t really have people over for meals, etc. I always wished I was in a family where your best friend was like a member of the family and always popping in for dinner. Ya know?

    Anyway, yeah, being a host is pretty alien to me too. We barely have enough sheets and towels for the two of us. My hospitality in the past has amounted to letting drunk friends crash on the floor or couch.

    One day I envision hosting dinners and barbecues. But my home is kind of my haven, and I kind of feel like having guests for too long is intrusive, ya know?

    Oh, and I love your description of Give-Me-The-Bill-Or-I’ll-Throw-An-Elbow! (Sometimes the guest sneaks off and pays the bill while everyone isn’t looking. That’s always fun.)

  5. Hm. I think it’s a cultural thing. And probably even microcultural: on the family level. Depends on how you were brought up.

    My friend La Maya, who entertains more people than I have known in my entire life, cooks meals worthy of the King of Siam and goes all out to make people comfortable. But you know what makes her quietly crazy? She absolutely HATES it when people don’t VOLUNTEER to help with the dishes.

    They never know it, of course, because she doesn’t complain. She just silently resents.

    When I have guests, I try to keep things real simple: one-dish meals, or things that can all bake in the oven at once in as few pans as few pans as possible. If I can work it so clean-up entails dropping the dinner plates and glasses into the dishwasher, that’s perfect.

    But having observed La Maya, I think when you’re at someone’s house, you should at least offer to help clean up. If the person declines the offer, at least she or he will take note that you asked.

    Same with splitting the bill. Volunteer. If they say no, at least you’ve made the gesture. When people insist on getting the bill, I often say “OK, but I get to pay for the next meal.” Then I’m a little more insistent on the next meal out.

    My mother used to sacrifice her own bed, gawd help us, when people came to stay. No joke: she would sleep on the sofa so family members or friends could have the bed in the master bedroom.

    Of course, the effect was to make guests feel they were putting her out, and so they wouldn’t hang around long. 😉 Maybe that was the idea, eh?

  6. Nicole says:

    In the midwest we have an ask three times rule. It is ok for either party to give in after 2 times. Once is to be polite, the second is to show you really mean it, the third allows something to actually get done.

    Good hosts do what they can to make their guests comfortable. Good guests do what they can to make things easier for their host. It’s a dance that depends on the preferences of the host (does (s)he not want people touching her kitchen, or would (s)he welcome help with the dishes) and how well the guests were brought up.

    So this midwesterner says you are right in both instances. But if they really want to pay the bill, let them do it. (I allow guests to treat me once if they’re staying with me, or to pick up every other tab if we go out multiple times… if they pay, I do the tip.)

  7. I always provide a clean space for guests and have a stocked fridge. I guess a lot depends on who is staying. Some of my guests insist on helping clean up and such, and I don’t fight it anymore. I am much more laid back about it now. I kinda just go with the flow.

  8. I don’t know when the line crosses from being a house guest to crashing on someone’s couch switches. Maybe when you are grown up enough to have a guest room? I have guests on my futon on occasion and I just try to have clean sheets and towels. Usually we go out to eat. It’s more of a favor to them to stay at my house rather than having them stay as guests at my house, if that makes any sense.

  9. Shelley says:

    I think you did great. If they choose to threaten bodily harm over a bill, well, that’s up to them. I would normally expect a good visitor to volunteer with the dishes, but if people don’t and it’s only for a few days, I’m OK with that.

  10. Free WiFi!
    A set of keys so guests can come and go as they like
    If possible, a favorite treat of theirs (e.g., rice pudding made from grandma’s recipe)
    Use of a car? (If you REALLY trust this guest)
    A ride to and from the airport
    Postcard stamps

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