This post was supposed to be yesterday’s post but, due to unforseen circumstances, I didn’t get that far. Too make up for that, today will be another double-post day – you lucky things!
Today, I actually wanted to invite some discussion on this post. I always encourage discussion anyway, but today, I actually want to know how you would handle this situation, It’s rather odd, so do please bear with me.
So it goes, I am what I’d describe as a middle-grounds host. I’m not so uptight that I ask you to take your shoes off as soon as you enter my home (it is typically considered rude in the West as it implies your guest is dirty) and I don’t mind some emphatic foul language, but shoes on the furniture are a no-no and you certainly don’t get to enter my bedroom without good reason. I was raised to have very ‘traditional’ values when it came to hosting, including that:
- You make sure your furniture is comfortable and clear for your guests to sit, and the home is tidy and there certainly aren’t any tripping hazards for them to fall over.
- You dress nicely to host them. Not formally, but nicely. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine, as long as they are clean. Your pyjamas and jogging bottoms are only okay if you are sick or just got back from the gym.
- You offer your guests tea or coffee, something stronger in the evenings. Alcoholic beverages for Sunday dinners and barbeques are also acceptable.
- If providing drinks, you also provide some sort of snack to accompany it.
- You clean up once your guest leaves, never in their presence (though moving things to make room for a serving tray is okay) and you certainly never ask them to remove their shoes.
And as a guest, I was always taught that:
- You present yourself clean and tidy, no messy clothes, no muddy shoes, hair brushed and tied back or styled.
- You say please and thankyou and address parents as Mr and Mrs/Ms, unless instructed otherwise. You mind your language too, unless your hosts are swearing.
- You keep your personal items on you. If you want to take your shoes off, you can, but put them out of the way and don’t blame your host if your socks get dirty or you hurt yourself. It’s an ‘at your own risk’ sort of situation.
- Similar to the above, take your plates or mugs out to the kitchen when you’ve finished with them and generally tidy up after yourself. If you accidentally knock a sofa cushion on the floor, pick it up, don’t leave it for your hosts to do.
- Never, ever go into personal spaces (bedrooms, cupboards, refridgerators.. I could go on) without permission or invitation, not even if you know your host well.
- You don’t know your host’s kids and pets, don’t treat them how you treat your own. You follow your host’s rules in their home, regardless of what you think of them.
And so on, all seemingly logical things. n
When I posted my scenario on Reddit, I asked for some advise on handling this situation, It was a bit of an oddball occurrence but also something that I was keen to avoid a repeat of. Instead, I got asked if I was serious as an English person because guests going into your fridge is normal (not to me, it’s not) and told that I was a controlling person . I have standards in how I treat people and allow myself to be treated, yes, and I am driven. But controlling? I don’t think so. The only time I’ll whoop your butt is if you’re putting me in danger!
But while all of this is well and good, we aren’t really getting to the bottom of what today’s post is about or why we’re here. Dear readers, this is how last Saturday went down:
On alternate Saturday’s, we host Matt’s father. As a rule of thumb, everything goes well and the whole evening goes without a hitch. Just occasionally, though, there are minor incursions. These incidents are bothersome, but they are much more of a bother for Matt than me.
Last Saturday, I was changing my t-shirt in the bedroom when Matt’s father turned up. As is the norm, Matt beckoned him in and boiled the kettle to make tea, but then had to backtrack briefly to use the facilities. When he returned to the lounge, Matt’s father was nowhere to be seen.
When Matt went into the kitchen, he found his father offloading some freshly purchased milk and butter into our refrigerator. It wasn’t groceries intended for us, it was produce that he had purchased and intended to take home after his visit, he’d just assumed that it was okay to do so and loaded his purchase into our refridgerator to keep fresh without our permission.
Now pause right here, because let me say that it absolutely would have been okay if he’d asked one of us first. We wouldn’t have been affronted in any way, and most likely, Matt would asked me and I would have hauled the ingredients for dinner out of the refridgeror to make some room, then more or less got on with cooking for everyone there and then! This isn’t about anyone but me using my refrigerator or leaving something in it that I hadn’t asked for (because receiving chocolate or wine is awesome), this is purely about the principle of using my refrigerator for his personal benefit, without asking.
When Matt spoke to me about the situation, I was almost as shocked as he was.
“The trouble is,” i explained in a whisper, “I can’t really do anything about it until I’ve seem it for myself, if that makes sense? But I will.” I gave him the kind of smile that is solely reserved for my most sinister plans.
“Love, how come you bought more milk? We’ve already got a full bottle in the door” I called from the kitchen. Wolfie looked back at me as I gave him a wry smile, game on,
“That’s mine, you leave that alone” Matt’s father said without looking up, it was enough to wipe the smile off of my face. Matt didn’t seem too impressed by it, either. Not only was that outrightly rude, but he’d plonked his groceries on top of my groceries – the groceries that I needed to cook our dinner.
“Oh.. okay..” I said, audibly annoyed, more annoyed now by what was said rather than what had happened. The idea that I would use his milk or his butter when we already have plenty of both seemed absurd and offensive above all else. Even if I did need to use a splash of milk or a knob of butter, I was about to cook his dinner!
Now, I’ll admit, I decided to serve him up the smallest dinner (I normally serve guests the largest so that they don’t go home hungry) as retribution for his rudeness and I bluffed about not having a dessert, too. Matt’s father resorts to the silent treatment when he feels wronged and rather than trying to negotiate with him and make the entire evening uncomfortable, I resorted to some passive-aggressive personal satisfaction instead. As it was, he didn’t even notice and when I told him, Wolfie found it funny, too. I know that it was spiteful, but by that point, I was so aggrieved that all perception of right and wrong went out of the window. I now know that spite can be driven by a desire to teach offenders a lesson and I believe that’s what it was. I don’t ask for a lot in life but I do ask for respect. Respect me, and I will respect you, too. Disrespect me in my home, you get less food for dinner – it’s just that simple!
I should say here that I have a long history of doing things for Matt’s Dad that are perhaps almost unheard of in most relationships. Barely a year into dating Matt, I was in a courtroom to stand against his Dad being evicted for rent arrears (we won) and I’ve had to print off a mass of recipes for him to cook as he gets confused by even the simplest dishes. When I started keeping tropical fish, he purchased himself a tank and has asked me regularly about fish care and maintenance ever since. Matt insisted that his father has kept tropical fish before and will remember how to keep them, he’s more than familiar with the look that he receives every time the phone rings and his father’s name pops up on the screen!
Wolfie and I have since discussed the situation and we have agreed, essentially, never to leave his father alone again.
“You mean babysit him?” Wolfie asked, grinning from ear to ear.
I shrugged and returned his grin, “you got me”.
It’s unfortunate that we have to take such measures around family visits as treating fully-grown loved ones like children is something that you should never have to do. My family isn’t perfect (I don’t think any family is!) but they would never use anything other than the bathroom without asking first. Okay, so my brother might pre-boil the kettle if I was trying to pull the dog off of my mother’s lap for long enough that we can say hello, but my family is just pretty awesome like that. My mother worries about my spending to the point that she can become harshly critical and my brother has remarkable ability to come up with some emotional prose that few can even start to comprehend in the moment, but we can get around that by keeping our budget to ourselves and smiling and applauding my brother even if we haven’t got a clue what he was just talking about. Familial relationships aren’t about creating a model family, they are about simply accepting their small imperfections and just tackling the bigger ones. I love my family and I love Matt’s Dad, too. They’re humble, humorous and imperfect people, and they’re all mine.
So I ask you dear lovelies, what would your handling of this situation be? Would you have flipped out? Would you have said nothing? Would you have done something else entirely?
Who gets to go into your fridge?
Until next time,
Stay safe & have fun,