By Anetta Nowosielska
I’m about to do you a solid here; a favor so huge that this very article may find itself transformed into an illuminated fixture permanently glued to your refrigerator or some other kitchen appliance.
Like many, I often play hostess to friends longing for a Hamptons retreat. At times it appears that my front door has been replaced by a revolving one that constantly spews out people I forgot I knew. Naturally, this phenomenon goes into overdrive, when the city folk get a whiff of a springtime breeze. To keep up with the demand, I have a blackboard in our kitchen where we used to mark up a visiting schedule, much like the one you’d see in a bed and breakfast or a nursing home. The decision to install it came on the heels of a terrible mix up, which forced two grown men to share a small bed on account of a full house.
Sure; there were times when I wanted to shut down our friendly Shangri-La and turn a blind eye to every pathetic attempt at obtaining an invite. Too many times our friends violated the visitor etiquette by acting as if good manners ought to be retired on a weekend. But just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. Friends and family have a funny way of going Corleone on ya.
Today the schedule board has been replaced with the host’s Bills of Rights. I agree; it may appear austere and hostile, especially since it’s hanging right above the dinning room bench like a symbolic ax that’s about to drop. But when a re-invite is more important than pride, and your sanity can no longer be compromised the following five rules may be the only thing that is separating you from permanently renouncing your friends.
1. You have the right to expect a hostess gift.
The most obvious of the rules is the one that’s most under-thought. Will a bottle of Opus One do? Not really, since most likely the bottle will be consumed on the spot with the visitor doing most of the consumption. A hostess gift is intended exclusively for his/her domestic use. Candles and other ornaments are nice as long as they are not a rewrap. I once had a guest who at the end of her stay attempted to gift me with a breadbasket she was unable to present to another friend, selling it off as a hostess gift. I turned it down and got bupkis.
2. You have the right to know the duration of a visit.
Beware of the proverbial ‘couple of days,’ which always turns into ‘one- too-many.’ Don’t play cool by avoiding the question in case the time of a visit is not clear. Feel free to mention the costs of keeping your Hampton house running, i.e. the heat, air conditioning and housekeeping. If those numbers don’t send them running, then asking them to stock up your refrigerator at Citarella ought to do the trick.
3. You have the right to expect guests to do some housework.
Skip this if you enjoy the pleasures of a full-time domestic staff. If, however, that’s not part of the plan, assign responsibilities to specific individuals during their stay. We are not talking toilet-scrubbing people; rather tasks of the more pleasant variety like table setting or flower arranging. That includes leaving the guest room in fairly decent shape, without those annoying luggage tags scattered on the floor or loose change spread out on the side table.
4. You have the right to expect the guests to pay for damages.
During a recent visit of a particularly difficult twosome, who magically passed through the initial invite worthy screening process, I had to order not one but two significant mendings to fix a broken door lock and backed-up plumbing. “Looks like you are going to have to get yourself a plumber and a locksmith,” was the mind-boggling advice by the man still holding onto the lock he literally yanked out of the door (I won’t go into details about the plumbing, but it wasn’t pretty.) I, in turn, forwarded the invoice to their residence with a picture of the two blissfully enjoying their time around my pool. Guilt is a powerful tool; use it wisely.
5. You have the right to expect to actually see your guests sometime during their stay.
With all the fun activities the Hamptons have to offer, it makes sense that your visitors would be pulled in many directions. But to use your home as a crashing pad, while they roam down Rt. 27 from one party to the next without as much as a breakfast appearance, well that just ain’t right. Technically speaking I do not have a remedy to battle such evil but I can refer you to a story shared by a hostess mentor of mine, who can write a book on the topic. “I locked them out, blaming it on a bad house alarm and turned the phone off,” she revealed with a wink. “They got the point.”