Thursday, January 15, 2009

'Gimme shelter' may strain relationships

Since we're talking about boundaries (and I vote for Alicia stashing her toothbrush in the medicine cabinet because I, too, am icked out), here's a pretty timely one: people who invite themselves to stay at your house.

NPR's "Talk of the Nation" did an interesting segment on this topic because of the crush of people expected to pour into Washington, D.C., in the next few days for Barack Obama's inauguration. D.C.-based writer Veronica Miller was on the show to talk about all the folks who announced they were coming to her place for the festivities. Miller and her roommate share a tiny two-bedroom basement apartment, and they've agreed to let three people stay with them. Even so, the aunt of Miller's roommate proclaimed that she would be "stopping by" on Inauguration Day. With five people.

The roommate promptly proclaimed that NO, she would not be stopping by. There's no more room in the inn. Kudos to her for not giving in to her pushy aunt.

I admit that I was briefly guilty of this crime. I have a friend who is temporarily living with his friends in D.C. Caught up in the excitement, the day after the election I texted him about crashing at his friend's place for the inauguration. Within five minutes I was texting him back, begging him to forget my request. I realized the serious social faux pas I was committing.

This is a matter of respect. It's just not right to force your desires on other people, especially when it's something as intimate as sharing their living space. Even if you are family, when you stay at someone else's home, you are their guest. They are opening their homes to you. They do not have to do this.

And yet, in the last few months, folks who live anywhere near D.C. have found themselves flooded with calls, e-mails and texts from shameless people they haven't heard from in years, wanting shelter. People who live in desirable locations -- near beaches or shopping/entertainment meccas, or in other countries -- are probably used to random "friends" inviting themselves to stay for free.

Here's a tip: those three people wedged into Veronica Miller's D.C. apartment? They asked. Don't assume, don't insinuate, don't demand. And don't be surprised or hurt if you're told no. But if you're told yes, be prepared to be the best house guest ever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how many people forget they are guests when a good friend or family member is involved. Like you said, someone's abode is their private space, and you should return their favor to shelter (and sometimes, feed) you with respect and a measure of gratitude.

Good for you for recognizing your faux pas!