I loved sleepovers as a kid. Some of my favorite memories were the nights I spent at my best friend Linda’s house, spreading our pillows and sleeping bags all over her basement floor and staying up way into the morning, talking about boys and clothes and the mean girls at school.
When I got older, I discovered girls trips. My first real one was spring break my senior year of high school. I saved up my money from my job at Caldor and we went to Ft. Lauderdale, and I almost lost my virginity to someone named Mike. Well, not exactly, but it was my first big make-out session, where clothes were shed and hands were groping.
One of my all-time favorite girls trips was the summer of 2003, St. Tropez. Some friends and I rented a villa there, in town, and things that tend to happen on girls trips, happened. We drank too much at night, woke up hung over the next morning, then gossiped by the pool about the previous night’s activities until it was time to go out again. It was perfect. There was booze and boys -- and Francois! Francois was the deckhand on the catamaran we rented one of the days. He was gorgeous, and he barely spoke English. He looked like Tom Cruise. He really looked like Tom Cruise. It was uncanny, in fact, how much he looked like Tom Cruise.
Francois and I flirted on the boat and when the day turned to night we danced until all hours at Le Cav de Roy, the chicest club in southern France. (Tables were involved). Naturally he was in no condition to drive home, so I brought him back to our villa. One thing led to another and we fell in love. At least until the sun came up and I realized I had to sneak him out. We spent the next day driving along the French coastline, roaming thru quaint coastal towns, eating foie gras, pommes frites, brie, and baguettes. When I returned, of course, I was the pool gossip. Me and my Tom Cruise-alike French pirate. My girlfriends and I laughed for days -- so fun -- about my epic romance with Francois and our deep meaningful conversations.
I love the boys and I love my girls too. Was I looking forward to hosting all of the ladies in St. Barths? Well, I was looking forward to spending girl time together, gossiping around the pool as we do, and also seeing my boyfriend. It was St. Barths after all. It’s almost impossible to have a bad time there. Right?
I couldn’t help but wonder. . .what makes the Perfect House Guest?
I think if I’d handed out manuals when we first arrived, with refresher tips on how to conduct oneself as a guest on a trip, things may have gone smoother. But I didn’t, and this is late, and for what it’s worth to the rest of you, here are some houseguest etiquette guidelines from my Book of Manners & Mischief. Review them carefully before planning a girls trip to St. Barths.
The perfect houseguest, above all, arrives on time and brings all her necessary equipment such as bathing suit, tennis racquet, medications -- certainly the hostess cannot be responsible for lending personal articles to her guests, especially her medications. The perfect houseguest will stay on her medication.
The perfect guest sees that her luggage is compact, and has appropriate attire for all occasions. She should appear in the dining room at breakfast dressed for the morning’s activity. The proper attire for breakfast is a simple frock with spectator shorts.
No guest should expect to have every hour of her day planned for her, nor expect to spend each waking minute with her hostess. A hostess needs private time, lots of it. The perfect guest should consider her hostess’ arrangements before her own. She should show up to dinners on time, attend functions that the hostess has arranged, and refrain from unpleasant conversations at lunch.
The polite guest refrains from the truth if the truth is disconcerting. One who has been kept up all night by a barking family dog should not say “the dog kept me up all night.” Unless a remedy is suggested, as in the case of a dry spring roll. It is appropriate to suggest to the hostess a dipping sauce but inappropriate to suggest sex with the chef.
A good guest will roll with the punches. Expect the unexpected; things may not go exactly as you hoped. A good guest will break her nose on the window but not let it spoil everyone’s fun. A good guest should not drink the entire supply of house wine, however she should let go of expectations and help to drink some of it.
If you are a pampered rich girl and can’t get on without a maid, forewarn the hostess to that effect. If your hostess has a personal butler on staff, he can unpack your bag. A polite guest will not take up his time, however, with her luggage alone, nor should she expect him to lay out her outfits, or pick up undergarments, or again, provide sex. A good guest should never expect the master suite, even if the hostess offers it.
Do not give orders to your hostess’ house staff, use up all the towels in the bathroom, toss cigarettes about, get into political or religious arguments with other guests, flirt or make unkind remarks about your hostess’ friends, or again, drink all the wine. In fact, all of the behaviors which annoy your family at home should be avoided when you’re visiting. Your family has to tolerate you, but your hostess can strike you from her list. And probably will.
Don’t expect the household to revolve around you. Vegetarians don’t need to swallow a hamburger with a smile, but they shouldn’t expect their hostess to stop eating meat. If you have anxieties do not bother your hostess or her guests about them, over and over and over. Do not expect your hostess to provide parades or banners or parties. A good hostess will greet you with open arms, settle you in and then take care of her other guests, staff and plans. She will not drool on your husband. She has a lot on her mind.
Don’t invite visitors without asking. While some hostesses are OK with you having a friend, it is wise and gracious to clear it with them first. This is especially true if you are planning on a group of French speaking Italians, or anyone at odd hours who is dressed as a pirate. It is always unacceptable to wake up the other house guests in the middle of the night.
Being a good houseguest means being good company, be good company. Withhold complaints and get into the swing of things, be it vibrant dinner conversation or adventurous activities. A fun time for guest and hostess alike is why you're there in the first place, and it's what will get you invited back. A good houseguest wakes up hung over in the morning and gossips with her hostess about the previous night’s activities by the pool.
Lastly, always remember that you’re a guest: Remember to be gracious -- after all, she is letting you stay in her rented home. Let your hostess know that you appreciate her kindness. It is usually considerate to reciprocate an invitation but in this case don’t bother. I’m busy.
*Thanks in part to Elinor Ames' Book of Etiquette (1939) and a bunch of other stuff.