For surely we are friends if you have received this invitation from me, let me be clear: this arrangement, which we are about to enter—that is, my hosting you in this house and your being my guest at same—is akin to walking into our magic box, where, although we will be present together in the same space/time, as we have surely done many times before, at our local coffee shop, say, or some similarly neutral urban territory, the rules of our relationship are now completely changed, because even though this may not be my house—I may be merely a renter, or housesitter, or even just a lucky friend of the house’s true owner—for the entire time you and I are here, we have a relationship that is not of two friends in one neutral urban territory. It is now the relationship of one host to one guest, which means, basically, just one thing: this is my house, motherfucker.
You know what a house is. It’s a stand-alone structure, surrounded by grass and trees. It is not attached to the pockmarked concrete runway on which you are right now tiptoeing, in direct sun, through a morass of Shake Shack detritus, while inhaling a cloud of boiling, hot pee.
My country house may not be mine, it may not have a pool, a working stove, or proper bedsheets, but do you smell that? That is the smell of fresh acorns and brownish leaves dropping into my hot tub.
And that is Paradise. And the thing about Paradise is, you don’t want to be there alone. Something about Paradise—the trees, the apples, the snakes—makes one want to share.
So despite the fact that this house is a magic box, meaning, the last place on Earth where a lady can put her incorrigible kids in day camp and then loll about in her TV pants to eat a Skinny Cow, alone, I want you to come here to visit me.
Yet this is a relationship set up from the beginning with a certain hierarchical power structure, and it is important that you understand this. An invitation to my house does not mean you are “a lucky gal,” or that you are “going to mooch off your friend at her beach house” or some other nonsense. A savvy guest understands her role in the guest-host relationship for what it is, i.e., a submission to a very specific type of spatial domination.
For example, my goal, as your host, is not to make sure that you are having a nice time, have everything you need, are fed, think the pool is warm enough, etc, etc. My goal is to have those things, and doing that for myself and possibly my children after they come home from camp, is all I can manage.
For that reason, when you come to my house, you must put yourself in stealthy, foraging mode. This may take a week or so of training in your own home before you get here. You must take as your inspiration the street children of Brazil. Think: I am small, I am fast, I am silent. When you can detect an old roll of Ritz crackers shoved in the back of your couch cushions and quickly and silently spirit them over piles of legos to the bathroom to devour them in the shower stall at 4 AM, you are ready to be my houseguest.
Furthermore, do not make the mistake of assuming that even though I invited you here, I want you here. I kind of want you here. But I also wish you would go away. To that end, you must go out of your way not to bother me. Do not bring me an annoying hostess gift that I will have to pretend to like, unless it is a beach house. A beach house, or two, is the only hostess gift I will accept.
Also, and this is foremost: do not make any work for me. Do not sleep, at least not in the guest bed. You can half-recline in one of those plastic lounge chairs by the pool. It’s nice out there at night. You brought bug spray didn’t you? Oh, and do not eat, or need to eat, or drink. If you come with six Clif bars, and occasionally take a few sips out of the hot tub, you will survive.
So what will you be doing, since you won’t be eating or drinking or sleeping or bothering me? I don’t know. Do you like to breathe? Good. You can sit and breathe. Isn’t the air here wonderful? Yes, it is, my friend.
I understand that you may try to create a feeling of goodwill between us by trying to entertain me, but be warned: my standards are high. But if you insist, here is a suggestion: do you know those marble lions in front of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude? When you are not channeling your inner Brazilian street child, you may sit by the pool as Patience and/or Fortitude. I will sit across the pool from you and sleep. Then, when the time comes for you to you leave, I will think fondly of you, and a single tear may roll down my cheek as I look in the general direction of where your bus is now stuck in traffic, and you are swearing that you will never be my houseguest again.
Thank you for coming.