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Ms. Geek Speaks: The holiday hazard of the houseguest

The dragon lady takes time to comment on modern etiquette.
The dragon lady takes time to comment on modern etiquette.
Jana J. Monji

Being a dragon lady takes practice and if you are a dragon in training, the holidays are a perfect time to begin. There are two types of house guests: wanted and unwanted.

First, there are holiday houseguests who feel privileged and will invite themselves. To these kind of houseguests, you must practice saying, "No." Do not quaver or equivocate and feel the need to explain why you are saying "No." Do not say that you're already hosting Aunt Sally or cousin Jim. For all you know your unwanted guest may be romantically involved with this person or have romantic and even stalker-ish intents.

Do not lie because you'll be shamed by the shameless should you be found out and this is the stuff of holiday movies. Simply say, "No."

If you do not say "No," then be prepared to become a seasonal host for this parasite and often parasites have a way of increasing their ranks. Being this kind of host is highly undesirable and there are few pest exterminators who will be of aid under these circumstances.

Should you feel the need to be helpful, then you might add, "No, but I can recommend a few good hotels." That might lead into question how you know of these good hotels so don't chose one that you use for say your romantic entanglements lest your unwanted houseguest will discover blackmail good tidings that will bring you no more good times and you'll become a truly helpless host searching the wanted ads for a hit man. That kind of scenario might make a great story for the movies or sink into the oblivion of a soon forgotten police report.

The desirable houseguest is one who has been invited. First you must make sure that the invitation is sincere and not one of those meaningless phrases. Your host may have said, "You should come visit us sometime," but did that person really mean it and did that person mean to offer up the comfort of his/her home and was this done with the full-knowledge and consent of their housemates or significant others?

Begin by sending a polite inquiry. Say you were thinking of traveling to that area, and ask if it would be possible to stay or could your host suggest somewhere suitable. This opens the doors and allows your potential host to say, "yes" or "no" and perhaps a bit more. It doesn't put your potential host on the spot, but gently offers an opportunity for you both.

What is your time frame? If you're traveling from a distance and need to stay for more than three days, then don't forget that you're imposing on your host's schedule and resources. A stay of over a week, is something that must be worked out with the most care if you wish to be invited back. An initial stay of two weeks to a month should be done only with relatives or friends that you know well, live in a foreign country or farther than you can drive in a day.

When I was in my pre-dragon lady form, I made plenty of mistakes, and will continue to do so. But let me help you avoid some.