Summer House Guests, Vol. 7, Issue 9

Dear Etiquetteer:

Now that spring is here the dread of summer is nearly upon me. Why dread you ask?  It's the awkwardness of addressing the expectations of vacation guests. My family has a wonderful home by the shore that we like to share with friends and extended family, inviting them down for a few days and sometimes more. Since the house is shared by now two going on three generations summer weeks are at a premium. We do make an effort to show our friends a good time and every getaway has been problem-free. However, this seems to spark the dilemma. Once friends have visited with us once there's an expectation that they can join us again and again. Starting this season I'll get the inquiry calls, "So, I need to schedule my time off at work. I was thinking second week of August for our vacation."  The feared "our."  One friend was even so bold last July as to want to leave her cardigan behind so it awaits her for this summer!  I do enjoy spending time with dear friends but would like some of our precious vacation time just to ourselves. It's also nice to mix it up a little too, to spread the joy with other friends so to speak. How does one handle these sticky situations with grace?Dear Hijacked Hostess:Etiquetteer understands and sympathizes with you completely. When guests begin to treat generous hospitality as a right rather than a gift, it’s a sign that the hospitality must be withdrawn. But Etiquetteer also understands how that feeling can be encouraged. The phrase “Oh come anytime, we’d love to have you” has much more of an impact on the recipient that you can imagine. And Etiquetteer has learned from hard-won experience not to use it any more. What is that old phrase, “You can’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone”? This year Etiquetteer thinks you should not invite anyone at all to join you at your family’s summer retreat. It’s time for your summer guests to realize that, as guests, they don’t call the shots or set the dates. You don’t OWE them a vacation house! While you might be tempted to invite just one, or maybe even two, friends to join you, Etiquetteer does not recommend this. Take this one summer for your family to enjoy in splendid, blissful solitude. Next year, if your friends seem appropriate chastened, you might resume your summer invitations.