There are many ways to indulge one’s ever- growing ‘personal space’ and still live sociably, as the experience of ‘guesting’ sheds light on, writes Alessandro Tome
They say you can’t teach an old horse new tricks. As we grow older, we become ever more entrenched in our habits and quirks, developing a deeper intolerance of others encroaching upon our ever-expanding sense of ‘personal space’, barely able to bear most, even ourselves.
For recently singled types, this manifests as an inability to find anyone suitably tolerable to spend any length of time with (hence a litany of short-lived trysts, often fuelled by lavish spending). For the rest of us, it surfaces as an inclination to decline any and all ‘guesting’ opportunities, and hence either needing to own or rent numerous abodes, or yet another inspiring hotel with very few other guests.
Being the lucky man I am to still be indulged by my long-suffering Angel Wife, I can vouch for the latter. But after years of decrying the English national summer sport that is ‘guesting’, I spent this summer trialling it for myself (the English love ‘not being part of Europe because we don’t need it’ but some-how spend most vacations away from the not so United Kingdom).
After years of writing about my aversion to having too many people around as guests – and my profound discomfort with being a guest myself – we decided to make a final attempt at embracing Britishness and go ‘guesting’ for the whole summer.
It turns out that this requires much preparation, and we admittedly started a little late in the day. Apparently, proper ‘guesting’ plans require pre-smooching for a whole year to secure the ‘prime’ week slot, and hopefully the better room. Repeat ‘guesters’ are slotted in first, as are those best at ‘singing for their supper’. I didn’t really qualify for either of these ‘priority boarding’ passes.
Angel Wife proved to be, as always, the foil for my reticent approach to getting invited, explaining that my ‘pre-boarding’ requests and conditions were only a joke.
Yes, I did bring my own pillows, but they were only small ones. Yes, I did like a large, bright bedroom with impregnable views, as removed as possible from anyone else’s, but no, it didn’t need be the master bedroom. Yes, I did like good wines and better food, but no, I didn’t need to see the wine list or interview the chef (as long as there was a good wine merchant nearby and I might be allowed to cook occasionally). And yes, I would be nice to other guests, even if they spoke to me at breakfast – as long as they agreed with my opinions.
An already short list of ‘guesting’ options dwindled to only the closest of patient, loving and possibly delusional hosts. Actually, I call them visionaries. Inspirational evangelists. Futurists. Basically, amazing friends, and generous to a fault. Yes, some were prime-aged newbie singles, fluttering in and out of fill-in dalliances that rapidly encroached on their ‘personal space’, but I was happy to note that it was by design, not by default – they were just discerning of whom they might spend their precious little free time with, rather than unable to ever do so.
And yes, there were also the happily coupled ones that loved sharing it all with as many friends as possible. And yes, there was even me, and all my quirks and oddities, with the odd break for freedom here and there, and loving being wanted as their guest. Needy, moi?
Turns out this old horse learned new tricks. There are many ways to indulge one’s ever- growing ‘personal space’ and still live sociably, sharing life’s wonderful moments with more than just yourself. You just need to choose well who they all are. And then still find time for just Angel Wife and me.