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What's the middle ground between "F.U!" and "Welcome!"?
January 16, 2007 1:38 PM   Subscribe

One of my wife's distant friends has attempted to invite herself to stay with us, again. She did this last March, and we used the excuse of me starting a new job and needing to do x, y, and z as well as the "out of town" excuse for any remaining dates. This got us off scot-free, but we both knew the time would come again... and it's here. We need a final solution.

We live in a small 2 bedroom apartment, in New York City. People like to visit here, and they don't generally want to pay for a hotel. We understand this. However, we also don't want people staying with us who we don't know or don't like.

My wife received the following email (summarized):

I'm going to be in NYC the night of the 5th to the morning of the 15th for [blah blah blah some work-related singing event thing]. Maria (my boss) said it is on the lower east side at Gramercy Park. I do have another friend who offered me her place to stay, but not for the whole time. Is there a chance that I could stay with you and Jeff for a portion of that time? I'd be using the subway the whole time and I'd be gone from 10-10 probably every day, so I'd be out of your way most of the time.

Let me know if this might be a possibility! Your choice on the dates, it's pretty flexible when I stay at her place.

Thanks for your help - I hope this works out so we can see each other!
Oh my god. First, I don't even know this woman. I've never even spoken with her. My wife doesn't really like her, but she's one of those people who just won't go away. To complicate things further, my wife is one of those people who doesn't really like to say no or to turn away people from her past, so I'm sure this woman will be following us wherever we go. Granted, they do have history in that they used to go to school together from ages 11-16. A decade ago. Then, they've seen each other sporadically when they've been home at the same time. This complicates the issue a little since it begs the question "does past history automatically equate to present friendship?" Even so, I'm reluctant to allow her stay because it'll set a precedent and possibly ruin the (slim) chances of her just fading into the past, and never hearing from her again.

Further, it really annoys me when people just invite themselves over, or present the possibility of you accommodating them. This is something I strive never to do. If anything, I might "test the waters" by mentioning I'll be in town, and see if an offer comes my way, but suggesting that you should allow me to stay in your apartment with you and your significant other whom I have not met seems borderline if not downright rude. Presumptuous, definitely.

I doubt this will be the last time this happens, so we need a final solution.

The only thing I've thought of so far are:

1. Our apartment has a weird key (true), and we haven't been able to get it duplicated (somewhat true). We need our keys (true). Sorry.

2. Keep it vague. "Sorry, that isn't going to work for us" seems like a pretty good solution, but a) it's still pretty awkward to say to someone, especially since I wouldn't put it beyond this woman to inquire further -- "Why, though? Why can't I stay?" -- and b) it'll be hard to get my wife to say this to her.

Have you had similar experiences? What would you do in this sort of situation? Is getting cornered into an unfortunate situation like this just a fact of life I'm refusing to accept?
posted by jeffxl to Society & Culture (123 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are allowed to say no without offering an explanation, you know. You're not the one who's being rude. She is.

Also, an explanation to her leaves the door open for her in the future.

"No, I'm afraid that won't be possible". Practice it. Use it.
posted by gaspode at 1:41 PM on January 16, 2007 [9 favorites]


Is getting cornered into an unfortunate situation like this just a fact of life I'm refusing to accept?

No! No, it's not. This woman isn't even demanding to stay, or assuming she can- she's asking. You need to say no. Vague is fine- Sorry, we can't- hope your stay in the city is wonderful! If she asks Why?!?!, she's rude, and you don't have to respond further.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2007 [10 favorites]


Yep. Exactly what gaspode said. I'm sorry, I'm afraid that won't be possible. Rinse, repeat. No explanation needed, and if she asks for one, that makes her even ruder.

Do NOT give in to these people, you'll only be miserable knowing you could have said no.
posted by agregoli at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2007


Just say that it isn't a good time right now and that you're sorry.
posted by k8t at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does she have your phone number? Has your wife corresponded by email with her recently? Because it would be unfortunate if the only way she had to contact you was an email address that your wife no longer uses. Hint hint.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007


"Sorry, it's just not possible. Maybe we can meet up for dinner at some point, though?" (Assuming you want to.)

If she presses, or asks why, then she's being so unspeakably rude that you certainly don't need to feel bad for saying no. Just keep repeating "I'm really sorry, it just won't work for us."
posted by occhiblu at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007


Ditto gaspode. You don't have to explain why or apologize -- but no need to be rude. If it's a work function she should be compensated for a hotel.
posted by handful of rain at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2007


God. Why can't you just say 'No!'?!

JUSt.SAY.NO.

If you don't know her, and your wife doesn't like her, then you have NOTHING to lose.

On that note, my boyfriend suggests you have us over next time we go to NYC. How does that sound? Hmm?
posted by sunshinesky at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree with ThePinkSuperhero. Living a mile from the Capitol in DC, we often find ourselves in the same situation. Usually, we're happy to play host. Sometimes, we say "Sorry, that isn't going to work for us." The polite folks don't ask why.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2007


(Actually, I mixed my answer up a bit. She's not being rude at the moment - as TPS says, she's just asking - but if she pressed after you said no, she would be.)
posted by gaspode at 1:48 PM on January 16, 2007


How about this:

"Sorry, we don't have the room. Maybe lunch one day?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:48 PM on January 16, 2007


I like option 2. You could wait a day or so and say "Unfortunately, that won't work for us!"

If she replies back with "Why not?" (and really if she asks why, she's got nerve) just ignore her or reply with another vague answer like "Won't work for us schedule-wise. Good luck with the blah blah blah singing thingie!"

If your wife doesn't like her, why keep the fake friendship going? This other friend doesn't want her over there the entire time either. I think if you let her stay with you, it will open the door for you to be a flophouse everytime she's in NY.

And quite frankly, if she's going on a work related trip, her stupid job/employer should be putting her up somewhere.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:49 PM on January 16, 2007


As others have said, just say no:

  No, sorry, you can't stay during that time.
  Hugs and Kiss.
  Mr. and Mrs. Jeffxl"
posted by chunking express at 1:50 PM on January 16, 2007


You can just say no, but if it makes you (or your wife) feel better to offer some sort of excuse, why not something like "our apartment can't accomodate/not set up to have guests"? Everyone thinks New Yorkers have impossibly small apartments anyway, so this shouldn't be too much of a stretch.

Your wife can always offer to meet her (elsewhere) for dinner or drinks, if she feels like she has to do something.

On preview, what Brandon said.
posted by min at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2007


If you need a cover story, tell her you'll be out of town. If you need a truthful cover story, go out of town.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you don't have other nonfamily stay with you, or you know that she doesn't know that you sometimes do:

"Sorry, it's not possibe. Our apartment is too small and cramped to have overnight guests."

Otherwise:

"Sorry, it's not possible. Why? I can't go into it; it's too embarrassing. One of those random `Life in NYC things,' but it does mean it's just not possible."

Maybe you have rats -- obvious, large, frisky rats. Maybe your place is a complete sty or looks like the Jacob's Ladder hospital. Maybe your neighbors habitually expose themselves at you, or fling cats at your windows. Who knows? She sure doesn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2007 [11 favorites]


The other thing I would point out to you is that if you create a situational excuse ("Key doesn't work right now, job's busy right now, etc."), then you're giving her the opening to ask this sort of thing again in the future. It tends to sound like, "We'd love to have you stay here, but right now doesn't work for us, so maybe in the future!" Which is why putting her off the first time in the way you did has caused her to ask again.

Just saying, "No, sorry," without any explanation, will hopefully put the desired boundaries in place so that she understands that your wife views their relationship as "friendly acquaintances" rather than "best friends forever."

That is, in my mind, good friends deserve an explanation. Friendly acquaintances deserve only a polite refusal. Giving her an explanation makes her think y'all view her as a good friend.
posted by occhiblu at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I knew it! I knew it wasn't just me being an unaccommodating ass!

@EndsOfInvention
Yes, she has our phone number, I believe. We had email and phone number problems in the past (really), but she tracked us down again. Ha, I just remembered! Actually, she got our current email and phone number by calling my wife's parents!!!. Unreal, this woman!

@sunshinesky
It's easy to say no to you, because neither of us know you.

@Brandon Blatcher
That would be a decent excuse, except we do have the room, really. We just souped up our second bedroom/study so it would be extra comfy for welcome guests.
posted by jeffxl at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2007


Yet another vote for "no, that won't be possible," with no further explanation. I know it's not easy for your wife to say that--help her learn. And since the woman asked by email, your wife can respond by email, where it may be easier for your wife to be firm than if she was talking on the phone. (Also, if the woman is coming to NYC for something work-related, then her employer should be paying for a hotel room. That's pretty standard in the business world.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2007


I don't think it's rude of her to ask. It would be rude of her to assume she was invited but it's possible she's also "testing the waters" and doesn't expect an affirmative answer, or won't be surprised by a negative one.

If all else fails, tell your wide to blame it one you — "he's uncomfortable having guests over whom he hasn't met," etc.
posted by Brittanie at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2007


As a fellow urbanite with a small place in an attractive city, I have said both "yes" and "no" to these types of people-- semi-friends or acquaintances hoping for a convenience.

Once you say "no" to these types who don't mind inconveniencing you, it feels so good and liberating there is no going back.

I don't think it is necessarily rude that she asked, but it also isn't rude if you say no.
posted by MasonDixon at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2007


When you give excuses like "Sorry, we don't have the room," you leave yourself open for a countering "Oh, I don't mind being crowded!"

Really, just a simple "Sorry, it's just not possible" is really best. If you want to keep up the friendship, you can add the "Maybe we can meet up for dinner at some point, though" part.

I do agree that it's a teensy bit rude to ask in the first place, but, on the other hand, if she's under the impression that you'd like her company, it's not a terrible breach. I've asked if I could stay with distant friends, and have gotten similar requests, myself. The level of intimacy is relevant. But, in the end, if you demure, and she presses, it's ok to just say no.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I'm afraid that won't be possible.

Yes, that's ALL you need to say -- period. If you do happen to know some affordable hotel options, why not suggest them.

Just say that it isn't a good time right now

Nope. As gaspode says, with people this dense, when they hear "this isn't a good time right now," they will assume that the door's open in the future, and so they will ask again and again.

Also, don't suggest lunch or dinner unless you and/or your wife actually wants to have a continuing friendship with this person. Saying "no" to the attempt to turn your home into a free hotel does not automatically obligate you to offer a meal in return. You can't keep doing that, and then wondering why the relationship just won't magically fade away.

And yeah, if she demands "well, why not?" when you say it won't work, just cheerfully repeat that it won't. With someone who's clearly not a close friend, you can be polite and say no at the same time without having to explain why or come up with cover stories. Again, she's the one being rude (or oblivious, at best).
posted by scody at 2:00 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Or, she could always use you as the bad guy:

"My husband's a bit prickish, doesn't like guests"

Or have fun with it:

"Sorry, that second room is our sex dungeon and the midgets just HATE it when strangers just watch."

"I'm sorry but we're coke addicts. Your stuff isn't safe around us."


But really, just say no. She doesn't sound like she's being rude, just asking and all that. But if you don't want her to stay, then you don't want her to stay and you really need to put your foot down. Hell, email or talk to her yourself. There's nothing quite like being an asshole to discourage people from asking/inviting themselves over.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would email her back with a list of inexpensive hotels conveniently located to wherever it she needs to be.

There is no other friend who offered to let her stay "but not for the whole time". She's just feeling you out to see what times work for you - she gave that away with the she's "flexible" comment.

She doesn't sound too terribly rude based on what you've shared; overly-friendly, or clueless, maybe. I would suggest taking her out to lunch or something, but if your wife doesn't like her, and you don't want to "lead her on", that might be a bad idea.
posted by iconomy at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


That sort of email doesn't sound rude to me. I'd just email back that, "Oh, sorry...we can't manage that...but have a great stay in the City and be sure to check out ." If your wife is up to it, she could suggest coffee or brunch or something.
posted by acoutu at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those people who doesn't like to say no, and doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So I have had to learn to say no, without guilt. You can't let other people manipulate your guilt to get what they want.

You can't tell someone something that will hurt their feelings, without hurting their feelings. As everyone else has said, you are not being rude. You have no obligation to open your home to anyone, whether its family, friends, enemies, or whatever.

"Sorry, that's not going to work out," is all you need.
posted by The Deej at 2:05 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ok, to be fair to this woman, she probably thinks the friendship is still on-going and is trying to kill two birds with one stone by staying with y'all (a place to stay and catching up on old times). I'm sure she'd love to catch up with wifey and continue a friendship that she does not know has ended. That is not her fault. Her email sounded upbeat and friendly - not pushy or expecting a handout.

Of course her employer is most likely putting her up in a hotel, but why not stay with friends and visit someone you once had a friendship with?

So to answer your question, just tell her no, that having her stay there would not be an option.

And I must say, that even though she has your phone number, she opted to email her request rather than put you and wifey on the spot.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2007 [13 favorites]


she could always use you as the bad guy

My wife's been doing this for ages and thanks to the occasional antisocial display on my part over the years, no one ever doubts it when she says it's not going to sit well with me.

Up until recently, we lived three blocks from Times Square so these were fairly common requests for us. New Years was always a nightmare.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


When you give excuses like "Sorry, we don't have the room," you leave yourself open for a countering "Oh, I don't mind being crowded!"

Chiming back in to agree with this. If you offer an excuse, she may counter it -- "I don't mind being crowded!" "I'll house sit for you if you're going to be out of town!" "Rats don't bother me!" "I can sleep through construction noise!" I have an old friend who has a tendency to do this -- she will counter any "no" that's accompanied by a reason with her own reason why my reasoning behind the "no" isn't valid. And she's not trying to be contrary; she reads it as being helpful (i.e., "here's why what you think is a problem isn't really a problem!"). I've put up with it to an extent because she's an old friend. But it does mean I've learned that the only "no" she'll really accept is one that's straightforward, with no wiggle room.

And yeah, the more I think about this situation, the more I tend to agree with others that this woman is being a little more clueless than overtly cloddish, especially as it sounds like your wife hasn't ever made the boundaries very clear. Which is not to blame your wife; just to suggest that it's time to set said boundaries -- pleasantly, but clearly.

posted by scody at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


former new yorker here. when i go back and visit, i love to stay with friends because it's a great chance to sit on the couch and catch up, etc. but i don't *expect* to be able to do so. i've had my very best friend say "sorry, not possible right now" and totally understood. don't feel bad about saying no.
posted by judith at 2:14 PM on January 16, 2007


Maybe your neighbors habitually expose themselves at you, or fling cats at your windows. Who knows? She sure doesn't.

Hey, I live in NYC too! I will volunteer to be that neighbor.

"Yeah . . well, we'd love to offer but there's this guy across the street from us . . "

All joking aside, I would just like to echo what others have said before:

Just say no.

No means no.

No doesn't require further justification.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2007


Man. If you don't like the woman, suck it up and stop leading her on. She probably has no idea you don't like her and don't want to be her friend. Just say what others have suggested: "No, that won't be possible, sorry!" and don't make fake, tentative plans for a lunch that won't be happening.

It was forward of her to ask you directly if she could stay with you, and so it's fine of you to be a little forward and say "no" bluntly. But it actually seems a little mean to me to be so concerned with how to say no to her in a way that won't hurt her feelings, but then talk about her as though she is an incredibly overbearing, clueless and rude person. She sounds to me like she just thinks your wife is her friend. I am very forward with my friends, even if they live far away from me and we don't talk often; they are my friends, that's what they're for.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2007 [18 favorites]


To me, this sounds more like a disagreement between you and your wife.

The request didn't seem all that out of line for an old friend to me, either, and if you both agreed you didn't want a visitor, I don't understand why you can't just say no.

Is this more a situation where your wife feels some bond with this friend, however distant, and would consider letting her stay, but you would rather not have this houseguest?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2007


It's easy to say no to you, because neither of us know you.

Obviously.. and that's my point. Half of you two dont know HER either. So why all this BS with trying to be polite, if the wife really doesn't like her all that much?
posted by sunshinesky at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2007


How was her response the first time? Ususally mature people know that when they ask a question there's two possible outcomes: the answer they want and the answer they don't. I try to always rememeber this when asking a question and try to be prepared for both, yes I know this is not always the case when dealing with others, let's just hope she is mature. It appears, with what little information there was about the other friend that she seemed ok with the other person telling her no for part of the time.
I agree with everybody else, just tell her it won't work, no excuse. You are not being ugly for saying no and she is not being ugly for asking. Ugly would have been her assuming she could stay.
posted by illek at 2:26 PM on January 16, 2007


There's something about saying that something isn't possible ...it's like a magic anti-argue word.

I have seen this demonstrated to astounding accuracy when turning people away from an already-full workshop. Perfectly reasonable explanations were met with rationalizations, arguments, justifications, and a whole lot of talking. "Sorry, that's just not possible" stopped them in their tracks.

She sounds clueless. I know the type. On preview, I nth everyone's advice to not give her any reasons, because she'll take them as an 'in." Also, I agree with iconomy about her "other friend" At best, she's pestering some other friend the same way she's pestering you, hoping that one of you gives in.
posted by desuetude at 2:32 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me know if this might be a possibility!

I would likely send an email exactly like the one your wife's "friend" sent. In my universe, it's literally asking "hey is it okay if I stay with you?" and I assume that the answer might be yes or it might be no. I like to think I'm good at taking no for an answer, but I also don't come from someplace where it's rude to ask.

If you want to say no and be polite, say something that is somewhere along the lines of "it's not you it's me" where you say that because of work schedules, other guests, temperamental pets, stress in your life or other family/personal matters (you do not need to be specific) having guests is not something you can accomodate. If you want to leave a door open you can say "not somethign we can accomodate right now" and if you don't want to leave a door open, don't say that.

However, you and your wife have to be on the same page about this before deciding what to do. If you're the one that is irked by this and your wife isn't, then you and she have some talking to do. If you're both equally irked and want a solution, it's not a bad suggestion to let you play the heavy and say something like "hubby really likes his private space/quiet time and haivng house guests really throws him off his routine." In the past, I've used the insomnia of me or a partner to explain why it's not a good time to visit.

In short, if it's no now and no forever according to both of you, just say that. If you're looking for a tactful way, people have given you good suggestions. If you and your wife don't agree, find a way to come to an agreement. If you're just incensed at your wife's friend's rudeness, keep in mind that different people may not consider that approach "hey okay if I stay with you, old friend?" rude at all. Good luck working it out to everyone's satisfaction.
posted by jessamyn at 2:34 PM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


Since your wife doesn't like to say 'no,' I think acoutu has the best language so far: "Oh, sorry...we can't manage that...but have a great stay in the City and be sure to check out [x]."

The blunt "that's not going to work out" is an unfriendly way to say 'no.' I think it's fine under the circumstances, but if you wife doesn't want to be rude, then acoutu's language is a gentler way to say no.

If your wife doesn't like this woman, don't add the "let's do lunch/dinner" just to ease the 'no.'
posted by Amizu at 2:34 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


WTF? How on earth is this person being rude? Her email sounds quite polite to me. Your interpretation of it, however, is downright ghastly. Of course, just say no to her question, but crikey, don't blame her for asking it as it's perfectly reasonable. She probably has no idea you dislike her so which isn't surprising based on your post.
posted by dobbs at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2007 [15 favorites]


It's really not rude to ask to stay with someone, at least in my world. It's equally un-rude to say, "Sorry, we don't handle house guests well. Good luck!"
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


does this woman know you have a spare room? anyone she knows who could tell her?

"so sorry, but we just don't have the room. there are some excellent hotel deals this time of year, though. best, mrs. x"

and then don't keep chatting to her. you don't have to answer emails.

10 days is some cheek to come to new york unless you are blood brothers or sisters.
posted by micawber at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you need a cover, say that someone else is staying for almost that exact period of time.
posted by k8t at 2:46 PM on January 16, 2007


With socially manipulative people (and on the basis of being a person who is forward enough to ask distant friends for a place to stay, I'd say she's manipulative), it's not enough to offer an excuse, because offering an excuse, in their minds, is actually saying "Yes! But...." for whatever reason you've given.

So, God help you, you get put on their "Next Time, For Sure!" list. Even worse, for the most active and manipulative, you get put on their dreaded "Recent Contact, Recommend to Others!" list, as they have some dopey notion that friends with apartments in New York are like verified mailing list addresses, and worth something intrinsically in offer to third parties, even complete strangers.

When I lived in Boston, I had this happen frequently. I'd get a call from someone, often at work, or on my answering machine at home, something to the effect of "Hi! This is Mark Bright, a good friend of Jessica Abel's. Jessica said she spoken with you recently, and said that if I was ever in Boston, I should look you up, as you know all there is to know about the sights in Beantown!!!! So, I'm gonna be there this weekend, and I thought it would be great chance to get together. I'm happy with a couch, or even the floor, and I'll be arriving on Yoda Flight 565 at 6:15 p.m. on Friday night. I don't have to be back at the airport 'til Sunday at 3:00 p.m., so I shouldn't be any bother at all. Lookin' forward to seeing you, if you're as cool as Jessica described!"

So, I'd show up at Logan with my Beretta, and take 'em up on the top deck of the terminal park, and make sure they saw the sights of Boston, and that they weren't ever that stupid again.
posted by paulsc at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


10 days??? As Ben Franklin used to say: "Fish and visitors stink after 3 days".
posted by any major dude at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


I go to new york all the time. Hey can I stay at your place? C'mon, I'm a nice guy.

Now do you think you can come up with a way to say no, and yet be nice?

Sure!

It goes like, "Ah geez, it almost might work, but we're ultra busy that week. Sorry." With a follow up (if you want to maintain the friendship)... "We could take you out for dinner one night."
posted by filmgeek at 3:01 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]



Further, it really annoys me when people just invite themselves over, or present the possibility of you accommodating them.


Keep in mind that while, to you, it seems rude to refuse this woman's request, the fact that she is asking this of someone she does not know well means that she will probably not find it rude in any way for you to refuse.

She has made a simple request as to if it is a possibility, nothing rude about answering that in an honest way.
posted by yohko at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I disagree with all the lying ideas. No need for that, and if she finds out, that will be yucky and make her feel bad. Esp. if she knows your wife's parents, that could get tacky.

I think "sorry we can't help you out" framed in the nicest possible way would be the right way to go. E.g.:

"Your trip sounds really exciting! I'm glad you have a friend who can help you out with a place to stay, because [husband] and I can't. I'm surprised that your work won't put you up in a hotel at least for part of the time. If you're looking for some cheap places to stay when your friend can't host you, there are some good hostel sites available through here. You might also have some luck posting an ad for a sublet on craigslist."

Sorry we can't help you out.

--[wife]

Add only if your wife actually feels this way:
"Let's go out for a beer while you're here. Call me when you get to town."
posted by tk at 3:17 PM on January 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


Me? I say LIE. I agree with K8T

Tell her you have someone already staying with you...make up an excuse like 'a friend is going through a divorce/break-up" and has been staying with us (for already too long) while looking for a new place...." that way you can even drop the hint you hate having people stay with you.
posted by ryecatcher at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2007


The Miss Manners approved response is 'I'm sorry, that's impossible.' Repeat as often as possible.

Someone inviting themselves to stay for 10 days, especially with no pretense of wanting to see you (I'll be out of your way most of the time) is pretty much being rude right from the start. If she's going to be there on business, why isn't her employer paying for a hotel?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:41 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I am posting this [rant] as a cautionary tale, and reasons you or your wife need to say "NO":

I was in a similar situation, but unlike you, I did not probe the MeFi collective for advice. My ex's 'friend' whom she had not seen in 10 years and (but had occasional email contact with) wanted to come and stay "for a few days", starting that evening. Initially, I asked a few questions about her, and but let my doubts slide about letting someone stay that neither of us knew well.

Cut to TWO WEEKS LATER and the guest had proven to be the worst of every possible world. Not only has she stayed for far longer than she originally asked, but had not made provisions for her onward travel. She had worse personal habits and hygiene than some of the most disgusting guy friends I have, and despite the fact that I live in a great part of the NYC, with access to subways, and walking distance from lots of great stuff, she never left the apartment! This was a big problem, as I work from home, so her hanging around was a terrible distraction (worse because she was not very talkative, so it was difficult to start the conversation, "so, when are you planning on leaving?"). There were many other negative aspects to her stay, which I won't detail here.

This woman was (10 years after knowing her) a very different person from the one my ex had originally known, and although my ex recognized this after a few days, it was difficult to throw her out, as the guest didn't have many other options.

In the end the solution was to blame me, and get rid of her, which I didn't care about. I made myself scarce one day, and the excuse of "Danny really needs his space back" was used - basically translating to, he doesn't want you here any more.

The 'friend' left just as I was returning to the apartment, and was never heard from again -- not even a thank you!

So, lesson learned, unless you or your wife are actually friends with a guest, with the constituent familiarity, you need to say "No", and if that means blaming you for the [perceived] inhospitality, so be it. Your wife may not care enough to preserve the friendship, so it's not a big deal if the guest does take offense.... by the sounds of your comment in the thread, though, your actions may be reported back to the in-laws, so be prepared for some 'backdraft' :)

NB - I don't usually have a problem with guests staying (I have had people stay with me for up to a month in the past), as long as they respect the fact that they are staying with you (i.e. using your resources and good will), and likewise can respect the social norms that are obvious, at least to me, for a house guest.

Good luck!
posted by DannyUKNYC at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


That would be a decent excuse, except we do have the room, really.

#$#%@^#$!

Just. Say. Fuck NO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I don't read the original letter as rude as you see it. To me, it's the kind of direct "ask" that people do all the time over email. I see her as asking and also giving you a way to say no gracefully (e.g., she's not telling you when she'll be arriving, but checking out if it's ok).

You say that she got your email and number through calling your wife's parents and bold it as if that's an unbelievably bad thing. Again, I don't see what you're so exasperated about. She wants a place to stay, perhaps has pleasant memories of your wife, what's the big deal?

If you don't want her, by all means politely tell her, "No, sorry" but I think you're getting all riled up over something that seems (to my eyes at least) fairly innocuous.
posted by jasper411 at 4:16 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


She's coming to your city for work and she wants to stay at your place for free? Fuck that. Just say no, or tell her to ask her work to put her up in a hotel room. How ricidulous.
posted by Jimbob at 4:29 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


she's not being that rude- she's just asking.

sure, you can say no without offering any excuses- it's your right as an assertive adult blah blah blah, but it's also kind of abrupt and will hurt her feelings and make future encounters awkward. your job here is to get what you want (no houseguest). your job is *not* to give her a morality lesson (ie, being abrupt so she feels judged and hurt that she was "rude").

i suggest your wife makes up an excuse that is inarguable- don't give her any room to negotiate. the excuse should blame you- the woman doesn't know you so she can't argue, and you don't know her, so you have nothing to lose.
your wife can nicely say no, then offer a consolation prize:

"listen, maria, things have been a bit rocky with john lately- i'm really sorry, it's just not a good time. (vague: maria won't want to pry, but also specfic and inarguable). " continue with: "but i'd love to meet you for lunch." (consolation prize, keeps it friendly.)

and if your wife doesn't wanna meet her for lunch, at least offer something-- "i'm so sorry it won't work out, but as long as you're in the city, i just discovered this amazing thing you should check out- x restaurant or y museum- they have a special deal right now that's just great."

then close with something friendly and noncommittal, like "great to hear from you, maria- i hope you have an awesome trip! it's so great your singing thing is working out! i always knew you'd get noticed for your voice."

it's like when a toddler grabs the matches- you whisk them away and offer a pleasant alternative- don't set the couch on fire, here's a teddy bear.

so, make nice this time. if she asks again next time, do the same thing with a different excuse. she'll figure it out eventually. there's no need to sour an acquaintance if being polite and offering *something* will get you off the hook the same way. you never know when an acquaintance with this woman will be beneficial- besides, it's good karma to be nicer than you need to be. that used to be known as "good manners".
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:50 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


"listen, maria, things have been a bit rocky with john lately- i'm really sorry, it's just not a good time. (vague: maria won't want to pry, but also specfic and inarguable). " [...] it's like when a toddler grabs the matches- you whisk them away and offer a pleasant alternative- don't set the couch on fire, here's a teddy bear.


Sheesh, I understand the desire to give an airtight excuse (as much as I don't think anything more than a clear but pleasant "sorry, no" is even required), but "Maria" knows the OP's wife's family -- what if "Maria" is a gossip who lets it slip that the OP and his wife are going through a rough patch? And even if she's not -- why on earth would the OP's wife want to imply to someone who's not a close friend or family member that her marriage is on the rocks?

And the toddler analogy is totally condescending. In fact, the very point is that "Maria" is an adult, and she deserves to be treated as such -- which in this case means giving her a clear, respectful, polite answer. That's how adults actually treat other adults. It is entirely possible to have perfectly good manners and not make up ridiculous stories like this.
posted by scody at 5:05 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


jeffxl wrote....
Further it really annoys me when people just [...]present the possibility of you accommodating them.

Get over it. There's nothing rude about asking to crash at someone's place, particularly in your mid-twenties.

Is getting cornered into an unfortunate situation like this just a fact of life I'm refusing to accept?

The only unfortunate thing in this situation is the fact that your wife doesn't appear to be able to say "sorry, no" to someone asking a favor. That is a fact of life that you had better learn to accept.
posted by tkolar at 5:32 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


The only unfortunate thing in this situation is the fact that your wife doesn't appear to be able to say "sorry, no" to someone asking a favor.

I totally agree with this. You're both in this predicament because the last time this person put out feelers about coming to stay with you, you both made up excuses (lied), and probably left this person with the erroneous impression that she would be welcome another time. Don't make up excuses this time. Just say no, with no excuses.
posted by iconomy at 5:42 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


allow me to stress that I do not advocate the making an excuse route. it would be far better and less weird etc to simply tell her no.

however, should your wife really be unable to do that, I would think that the best default is bedbugs.
posted by modernpoverty at 6:09 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another voice saying that the email you received wasn't rude. At all. In fact, the fact that it's an email and not a phone call makes it much easier to deal with.

Here's the easiest solution there is. Do nothing. If a call comes that might be from her, don't answer it. She'll figure you're out of town or something, and if you ever run into her later, that's what you can tell her happened. If you want to be nice.
posted by bingo at 6:21 PM on January 16, 2007


Here's the easiest solution there is. Do nothing. If a call comes that might be from her, don't answer it. She'll figure you're out of town or something, and if you ever run into her later, that's what you can tell her happened.

...so then she'll promptly ask you if she can stay with you the next time she's in town!

Christ, what is so abjectly terrifying to people about a simple, polite "no"?
posted by scody at 6:39 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Miss Manners would tell you that the appropriate answer is, "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry, we just can't."

If anyone asks why, the correct answer is, "Because I'm afraid it's just impossible."

(Per Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior; highly recommended.)
posted by jeri at 7:08 PM on January 16, 2007 [17 favorites]


Christ, what is so abjectly terrifying to people about a simple, polite "no"?

It's not terrifying. But you're kidding yourself if you think that it's going to be perceived as polite. And depending on who you're dealing with, you may be asking for a lot more trouble with that kind of response than with a response that at least implies that you give a shit what the potential visitor thinks of you.
posted by bingo at 8:11 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like the responses along the lines of,"Sorry, it won't work out, we hope you have a great time in NYC."

The leading "sorry" sets the stage for the "no" answer. The positive, upbeat close ends it on a nice note. But not too nice, so it might not prompt more self-invites.

Don't use the key excuse. I believe you, but it will come out sounding fake and lame to her. Either that, or she's got a cousin in Jersey who can duplicate any key and he'll be glad to stop in some evening with his equipment - maybe we can all do dinner!
posted by altcountryman at 8:21 PM on January 16, 2007


Dude, tell your wife to grow a pair. Women are socialized to be nice to everybody, but which would she rather have, being rude to a "friend" who she doesn't even like, or having a pissed-off husband because she can't bring herself to say no?

Also, this woman has her email and phone #; if she weasels her way further, she'll know where you live!
posted by lychee at 8:33 PM on January 16, 2007


The person asking to stay is not being rude. Rude would be showing up at your door with a suitcase.

Take the advice above and say no with no excuses. It's sad to me that we live in a society where hospitality is so little valued, but at least make it clear to her that the answer is a full on "no." Anything else would be, well, rude.
posted by zhivota at 8:44 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's not terrifying. But you're kidding yourself if you think that it's going to be perceived as polite.

Seriously? You think avoiding someone by not answering your phone after they've already asked a direct question -- and then lying if you get caught! -- is more polite than simply saying "I'm so sorry that we can't put you up"? Funny etiquette book you've got.
posted by scody at 10:25 PM on January 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


If it were me and my wife insisted on having a "reason" (your big mistake was taking the easy way out the first, saying you can't do something because of X, Y and Z rationally implies you can do it if X, Y and Z do not apply), I would tell her to use me as a reason. My husband has put his foot down, he doesn't want people staying in our apartment. Maybe the friend would think I was an asshole but what do I care? I don't even know her.

Family and CLOSE friends can expect a night, maybe two tops out of me. If you can't afford a hotel room you can't afford to travel. I know some people are of a different mind set and that's fine, they can stay with people of a similar mind. There is nothing reasonable about this woman's request.
posted by nanojath at 10:48 PM on January 16, 2007


Not to mention that playing passive-aggressive possum means that, without a clear answer, this woman might delay in pursuing other lodging options in the meantime. And if that's the case, the longer she goes without hearing a direct answer, the harder it actually makes it for her to find a decent rate at an affordable hotel. Which is most certainly not a polite thing to do to someone, either.
posted by scody at 10:49 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


My excuse would be that I'm fostering a ferret in the spare bedroom, so the door has to remain shut at all times, and he has free range of the whole room - bed included.

I also don't think she was rude - I know we're talking about American culture here, but if my husband and I visit NYC and stay in a hotel rather than with our friends, they get offended!
posted by Liosliath at 11:00 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it's OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't even have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you're a Guess Culture person -- and you obviously are -- then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you're likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you're an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she's an Ask and you're a Guess. (I'm a Guess too. Let me tell you, it's great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people -- ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you'll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you'll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.

As you read through the responses to this question, you can easily see who the Guess and the Ask commenters are. It's an interesting exercise.
posted by tangerine at 11:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [1560 favorites]


It's really interesting that so many people think the request isn't rude. I think it's rude, or maybe a better word is pushy, to ask someone for a favor a second time after you've already been turned down once. I feel like the first refusal is the unspoken social signal that we hope people pick up on so that they don't put us in the position of having to be rude and say no a second time to a request for a favor.
There's a lot of good advice about different ways of saying no - if it were me and I did want to have some future contact (but not a house guest), I would go with "No, we can't , have a great visit, let me know if you have time to meet up, etc..."
posted by gt2 at 11:42 PM on January 16, 2007 [6 favorites]


Wow, gt2 -- I couldn't have asked for a clearer demo of Guess-type thinking, complete with the assumption that you should never "put [people] in the position of having to be rude and say no" -- italics mine.

For comparably unmistakable Ask-type responses, see dobbs and tkolar.
posted by tangerine at 1:12 AM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's really interesting that so many people think the request isn't rude.

I live with my SO in a major city and we get lots of people visiting, lots of people asking to stay over. Is it rude? Depends. It depends entirely on context.

There are people who have stayed before and have been good guests, who have have taken us out to dinnner as thanks, who stay in contact when they're not in town and not looking for somewhere to stay. It's not rude when they ask. It's clear they're not exploiting us.

And there are the few who only get in contact when they want somewhere to stay, who pay for nothing when they're here and when we can't accomodate them, drop out of contact again. They're rude. It's all context. The OP has to be the judge of the context.

In any event, rudeness is besides the point. Do you want to let someone stay? No? Then say so.
posted by outlier at 4:01 AM on January 17, 2007


You think avoiding someone by not answering your phone after they've already asked a direct question -- and then lying if you get caught! -- is more polite than simply saying "I'm so sorry that we can't put you up"?

Politeness is more than words, and if the object of your politeness doesn't buy it, then you've done nothing more than played a little game with yourself.

The important thing is what you want to get out of the situation. Seems to me that the OP wants a) for the moocher not to stay at his house, b) to not have to get into a dialog with the moocher in which she's empowered to negotiate, c) to ensure that if his wife meets the moocher in the future, things aren't too awkward. My solution (silence) achieves all those goals. The fact that the moocher might screw herself by holding out hope that she'll have a place to stay is, in the context of the objectives, a good thing. After that, she won't assume that staying at their apartment is an easy bet. She's on a business trip; she's not going to end up sleeping in the park.
posted by bingo at 6:24 AM on January 17, 2007


I'm so glad you asked this question. Just an hour ago my father called to ask if he could come for a week in March, since he's in cold Chicago and we're in warm Florida and all. Ironic, since I dreamed last night that I divorced my father for all the ways he's mistreated me in real life.

This thread was just what I needed. Thanks.
posted by orangemiles at 7:41 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


This was a fascinating thread. Loved tangerine's ask vs guess (I'm Guess).

Just thought I'd add, since I didn't see it mentioned, that the fact you used an EXCUSE last time may pose a problem if you give her a CATEGORICAL no this time.

That is, she'll wonder why there was no categorical no the first time, and figure out you were lying.

Not that you need to be ovely concerned about this if you & your wife don't like her. Jus' sayin'.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2007


tangerine wrote...

For comparably unmistakable Ask-type responses, see dobbs and tkolar.


Going slightly off-topic: I was raised in a "Guess" family and while I agree that it gives lots of practice in reading subtle social cues, it's not a very functional way to approach life in the U.S.

In fact, one of the things I truly cherish about American culture is that we're first and foremost an "Ask" country. Understanding the delicate webs of social obligation in some countries (don't get me started about Japan) is a full time occupation, and as much as the blunt and to-the-point nature of American culture gets parodied, it's a welcome welcome thing when I travel around the U.S.
posted by tkolar at 8:36 AM on January 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


Tangerine, I think your analysis of Ask Culture people vs. Guess Culture people is right on the money. However, I want to emphasize that I don't think the requester was rude to ask for a favor the first time. That seems natural to me. What seems rude is to ask for the same favor a second time, after having been refused the first time. It puts the poster kind of on the spot. And I definitely think that Guess people have to work on being direct, because obviously not everyone picks up on these so called "social cues". I've had to try to work on this a lot myself.
posted by gt2 at 8:51 AM on January 17, 2007


Many of you nailed it. Tangerine especially. I could practically mark every answer as "best answer" because your responses were amazing. Apparently I hit a nerve!

This is more of a disagreement between wifey and I than with her friend, as some of you rightfully pointed out. Also, while I (being a part of the Guess culture) feel this was a request I would never make (and therefore rude), the person in question (obviously from the Ask culture) and the wife (who falls in a bit of a gray area, frankly) doesn't see this as a rude or presumptuous request at all.

While I don't think I would have any trouble at all turning someone down in a situation like this with the unanimously agreed upon vague-but-direct "sorry that just won't work" answer, the wife does. If anything, she'll rest it on an excuse -- anything to avoid reminding this woman that they don't ride the bus to school together anymore. But judging from our conversation last night, I doubt that will even happen. My prediction is that she'll stay a couple of days, see how nice our place is and how great it was to catch up, and feel absolutely no hesitation being even more forward next time.

Yes, this is a major difference between us, and it's really hard to figure out if it's just me being too rigid, or her being too much of a doormat. Especially when her guilt/regret complex and my general anti-socialness get thrown in for consideration. Further, as one of you pointed out, this is somewhat of a difference between men and women, which is just as annoying.

I've asked myself if this would annoy me any less if we had a house, and the answer is mixed. It would be a little less intrusive, purely for the fact that in a house said house-guest wouldn't always be within arm's length and I would have the opportunity to retreat to a distant corner, which our current apartment situation does not allow. On the other hand, what's really the killer in this situation is that I don't even know this woman, and that wifey stopped initiating contact with her long ago (contact only comes through this woman's persistence and oblivion).

Yet another difference between us: I'm willing to let old friends fade into the black, while she's eager to keep everyone in the light. Probably another male/female difference, I'd wager. From what I've figured out it seems that women are all about nurturing relationships, with the philosophy that if you turn people/opportunities down, they won't be there in the future. This inevitably requires you to do many things you don't want to do, but "must". Either path can lead to a feeling of regret/guilt -- "I should have gone out with them" or "I should have listened to myself and stayed home". Men on the other hand, seem to be more willing to listen to themselves and do what they feel like doing at any particular time. "Selfish", as some women might accuse (but gloriously guilt-free!). In short, I'd hypothesize that women feel more of a social obligation than men, which makes this seemingly simple black and white issue a shade of gray.

Most days I consider this yin/yang type difference between us an attribute; if the wife were just like me we'd be a couple of assholes! So it's good that we balance each other out, I guess, in the cases where the balance settles. This is not one of those cases, though.
posted by jeffxl at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Further, as one of you pointed out, this is somewhat of a difference between men and women, which is just as annoying.

Whoa...gently reminding you that this is not a Men are From Mars thing. A whole bunch of women in this thread replied to tell you to just say no, including the fastest responders. The ask vs. guess explanations are right on. It is cultural, but not necessarily gender-based.

My best friend (girl) keeps in touch. I (girl) let people go. Some people, like your wife and my best friend, want to keep everyone "in the light." If you wife wishes to remain socially obligated, you're going to have a tough time convincing her to not do this thing that she wants to do. Might want to start crafting a compromise.
posted by desuetude at 10:40 AM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Good point. I didn't mean to make it into a pure men vs. women thing, but figured it might play a part. I just started writing and I couldn't stop.

My apologies to anyone who was offended.
posted by jeffxl at 10:49 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


@g2: I think your analysis is a little off. If the first time the person had been given a categoric no, a la. "I'm sorry, that's impossible", then you would be correct. However, since the person was given a wishy washy excuse based no then there is no reason it would be rude to ask again. That's another reason not to give the excuse based no. To a member of the Ask Culture an excuse based no is not a deterent against future requests of a similar type.
posted by cm at 11:30 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I live with my SO in a major city and we get lots of people visiting, lots of people asking to stay over. Is it rude? Depends. It depends entirely on context.

I disagree with this, pretty much. It is always rude to invite yourself to anywhere. The only context that makes it acceptable is a previous invitation to 'let us know if you ever need a place to stay in New York.'

This may mark me as an extreme 'Guess' but unless you've previously been given a pass to ask, at most you can tell someone you're going to be in town and hope for an invitation. Actually asking for one is rude. Always. Even if you're perfectly willing to take no for an answer - because that still forces people to say no, and as you can see by the number of people in this thread who aren't comfortable saying, that's not acceptable.

Manners aren't just about the end result, they're about how people feel on the way. Making people feel bad in order to maybe get what you want is rude, even if you wouldn't feel bad in the same situation, or you don't think they should feel bad in that situation.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:29 PM on January 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


She didn't "invite herself". She asked if it would be okay. And quite politely, based on that paraphrased email: she left the dates and the duration of her stay up to you, made it clear she wouldn't expect to be ferried around or constantly entertained, and nothing in the mail sounded like she assumed the answer would be yes.

I love tangerine's "Guess" vs. "Ask" analysis. Personally, I'm a lousy mind-reader, and don't expect those around me to be psychic either... I find it much more irritating when someone is hinting around that they want something than if they just come out and ask for it. And equally irritating when they'd rather hint around that they *don't* want something instead of just saying "no".
posted by ook at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


...at most you can tell someone you're going to be in town and hope for an invitation. Actually asking for one is rude. Always.

Wow. Always? If friends of mine ask to stay at my place, it doesn't bother me at all, whether I invited them or not, and whether I'm going to answer in the affirmative or not. Is that okay with you? Or is it somehow rude by divine law, whether anyone in the situation has a problem with it or not?

Although I like the ask/guess analysis, there's more to it. There is also a culture of people who grew up with the understanding that, when you travel, staying at friends' houses is just something you do. If a friend of mine (especially a non-rich one) came to New York and ended up in a hostel or a hotel, I would be weirded out, and a bit hurt, that I hadn't been asked to host them.

I've traveled all over the country (and in many other countries) courtesy of friends' couches and floors. Some of them I asked, and some of them invited me. Some said no, and that was okay. I would have thought it very strange if any of them had been offended that I asked. And I've been a host to many (some of those who were hosts to me, and many others) who asked without an invitation. Heck, I don't even have to get along with you that well for you to stay at my place, as long as I don't think you'll be there long, make a mess, or steal my stuff.
posted by bingo at 4:27 PM on January 17, 2007 [9 favorites]


What's the difference between inviting herself and asking if it's okay? You may think that by invitation, I mean something more formal or more concrete, but if that's the vocabulary difference, then let me be clearer: Asking someone if you can stay at their house with no prior indication from them that you can is rude.

I don't think that nobody should ever stay with friends when they travel. I think lots of people should stay with friends when they travel. I think, however, that it should be up to hosts to decide when to extend hospitality and to whom, and not up to the guests.

I'm not inhospitable. I'm frequently heard to utter the words, 'My couch pulls out if you ever need a place to stay.' Thus, my friends and family feel free to ask me if they can stay at my place while they're in town. I think that particular step, though, of me offering, is vitally important to the whole thing.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Just chiming in to add another data point to say that the request was not rude at all but leading the friend on with a false excuse would be.
posted by Staggering Jack at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think, however, that it should be up to hosts to decide when to extend hospitality and to whom, and not up to the guests.

And this is where your opinion on this differs from, say, mine and bingo's. In my universe, I feel bad that I can't tell everyone all the time "Hey if you need a place to stay in Vermont, please do look me up." and I'd feel weird if I knew someone was paying to stay nearby unless this was their expressed preference. My feeling has always been that -- in lieu of me telling every single person that it's okay to stay here -- they should also feel free to ask, that I don't find it rude and in fact I might just be clueless enough to not know they needed a place to stay if they just said they'd be in town.

You're not inhospitable, but you have a different set of rules and etiquette that you prefer in your interactions in a host/guest environment. That's your preference and your right, certainly, but it doesn't mean that people that ask if they can stay are universally rude, it means they are from (or exist in) a different culture than you are.

Making people feel bad in order to maybe get what you want is rude, even if you wouldn't feel bad in the same situation, or you don't think they should feel bad in that situation.


I certainly get your point here, but I am enough of a martian on my own planet that I have a hard time figuring out what everyone else will think is or is not rude. Now that I know you'd find it rude if I invited myself over, I certainly won't do that, but it wouldn't occur to me that it would put you in an awkward position just by asking, since that's not how "my people" do things. Granted, we're all speaking in hypotheticals, but etiquette is all about not making anyone feel lousy, which includes people like you as well as people like me. In my universe, this isn't getting what I want, it's about a mutually satisfactory arrangement that could potentially make both people happier. If it doesn't make you happier, then please feel free to say so, but in my culture people who stay at other people's houses aren't freeloaders, they're social. People who stay in hotels when they're in town are... not social. I have one parent from each mold and I always wonder how they even got along long enough to have kids.

Clearly the OP feels more the way you do and it's been great to have all these different opinions here in the thread [the ask/guess thing us really brilliant] and hopefully we've all been able to help him solve his problem, but I'd be really careful drawing absolute lines in the sand of Etiquette Beach because, as I said, if you're using it to tell other people that they don't get it, then in some ways it's you who don't get it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:03 PM on January 17, 2007 [21 favorites]


I'm not really the one drawing the line in the sand on Etiquette Beach. Emily Post did it long before I got the chance:

"One may never ask for an invitation for oneself anywhere!"
posted by jacquilynne at 6:15 PM on January 17, 2007


Social grace is achieved through generosity of spirit -- both in what is proferred and accepted in a social situation.
posted by tkolar at 9:39 PM on January 17, 2007


I have to go with Jessamyn on this - and who gives a crap what Emily Post thinks? This is kind of like the "Should I send thank you cards" thread. Emily Post would say yes, but I think about 90% of people said they don't bother anymore.

I think etiquette should be a personal standard, since that's all you can control, anyway.

And I still send thank you cards. I, for one, welcome our Martian overlords.
posted by Liosliath at 12:05 AM on January 18, 2007


I think men should stop asking women on dates. It makes me really uncomfortable to have to turn them down, which means it's incredibly rude of the men. Sheesh!
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:22 AM on January 18, 2007 [6 favorites]


Dates are presumed to be to the mutual benefit of both sides of the equation. Asking someone if you can use their home as a hotel is not.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:29 AM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]



Dates are presumed to be to the mutual benefit of both sides of the equation. Asking someone if you can use their home as a hotel is not.


How much more anti-social can you possibly get?

The chance to do someone a favor is always welcome.
posted by tkolar at 9:32 AM on January 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


May I recommend The Book of No by Susan Newman? I just read it today and it's great.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:27 PM on January 18, 2007


I've never been able to understand the "can't say no" people. If I were in this situation, I'd flat out say "no" and then I would be glad to have an annoying person out of my life.

Seriously, what's with the passive-aggressiveness?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:14 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


And when you think about it, it's always better to be flat-out rejected for something then have someone allow you to do something out of guilt.

Seriously - if you were to let her stay with you, think of how horrible she would feel if she knew that deep down, you resented her presence. She would feel awful, ashamed, and embarrassed if she's at all human.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


How much more anti-social can you possibly get?

The chance to do someone a favor is always welcome.


The whole point of having a home is that it's place you can call your own. Emphasis on the you and your. It's up to me who I allow in it and when.

The welcome mat faces the opposite direction at my stoop.
posted by DonnieSticks at 1:15 AM on January 21, 2007


I'm not sure about Miss Manners, but a number of other people might might intone (sotto vocce), "I'm afraid it's not a good place to stay. Not now, not ever."
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2007


One reason why the "ask culture" is so prevalent is the potential pay off is enormous in proportion to the effort involved in asking. In this case it might help you to see her request in financial terms: she is asking you for food and shelter in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The only cost to her is the time spent on one email and (possibly) a hostess gift. Her potential reward is saving hundreds of dollars, possibly even pocketing her work-allocated per diem. You, on the other hand, will be out of pocket for electricity, phone, food, and laundry, not to mention your valuable time. If she was a very dear friend you would gladly spend this money on her, but obviously she is not.

I have no doubt at all that if you say "no" she will have other people on a list to ask.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:18 AM on January 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


You, on the other hand, will be out of pocket for electricity, phone, food, and laundry, not to mention your valuable time.

Also she's probably germ-ridden, has extremely poor personal hygeine, and most likely is a lapsed heroin addict who will sell your furniture.

I would really love to see a demographic breakdown of the people answering in this thread. As someone with midwestern roots, there have been some completely jawdropping responses here.
posted by tkolar at 10:04 AM on January 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


I agree, tkolar, I don't get these responses. I grew up in the South. Hospitality was a given. If someone needs a place to stay, you open your doors to them.

These other people, geeze - you're like the obnoxious snobs who live in gated communities because you don't want to acknowledge that other people exist.

In this case, if you guys don't like her, you're under no obligation to help her, but helping people isn't the same thing as them freeloading on you.

Republicans!
posted by MythMaker at 5:30 PM on January 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


hmmm... I tried to do a demographic breakdown but many people don't have their latitude/longitude given - these must be Guess types who don't want anyone wrangling for invites. Or they are from California, which doesn't really tell you anything. Very few people in California are from California.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:18 PM on January 21, 2007


I think it depends more on the level of friendship. There are friends who i've stayed with or that have stayed with me before that I would have no hesitation asking. Actually they'd need a good excuse to say no.
posted by mary8nne at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2007


jeffxl, i suggest you change your mind and allow this person to stay with you. if you truly were not of the means to accomodate such a guest, the answer to this question would be immediate. the opportunity to accomodate another being is very valuable. no comment has suggested, after more than 100 , that you go out of your convenience to help another person. the potential that exists for you to learn from one another is very great. is it really such a burden, such an unpleasant task, to help another person? What are you afraid you will lose?
posted by headless at 2:51 AM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm from Boston and it's entirely beyond me how this is not an example of someone "inviting herself over." To reject someone asking if they can stay over (without fabricating some excuse) is an awkward thing to have to do, perhaps more awkward than letting this jackass stay in your house for a couple days.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:04 AM on January 22, 2007


I'm pretty surprised by these answers, especially the ones from people who find it rude when a family member asks to stay with them. Family? Your Dad has asked to visit for a week during the winter and you find that rude? To me, that's weird.

I recently went to Europe, and found it interesting that at night people will often congregate and socialize at public squares. In the States, when people are given more vacation time, TV watching increases. I think a lot of these answers speak to isolationist US culture.

My girlfriend and I make our decisions about who can stay with us on an ad hoc basis, but if someone from my childhood I didn't know too well asked if they could stay for five days (and I liked them somewhat). I would consider taking a risk, putting myself out there, and saying yes.

We recently had an acquaintance whose apartment was broken into. She was pretty freaked out, and asked if she could stay with us for a while. Why not? It's not a lot of skin off my back, and it made me feel good to help out someone I know. Surprisingly, a lot of other people we know privately told us they thought she really stepped over the line by asking to stay. I was surprised by how strongly they felt this way.

Anyway, this was a great post. I am going to put a lot of thought towards "Answering" versus "Guessing".
posted by xammerboy at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm happy to say that an agreement has been reached. I took IndigoRain's advice and bought "The Book Of No". After reading that, and after another calm and rational talk about how inviting her to stay is sending her the wrong signal (correct signal = "we're not really friends anymore", wrong signal = "come over, we love you"), it was agreed upon that we would turn her away.

It was hard for the wife, but afterwards she felt great. It made it easier that the woman in question had frantically texted a couple of times, concerned that her email wasn't received, along with sufficient "OMG HOW ARE YOU!?" padding. We used the much suggested "I'm sorry, but that's just not convenient. Have a great stay!" line. We did end up throwing her a little bone, in that I gave her a list of hotels I can get discounts with through my work. Friendly, but distant.

For the record, we are both democrats originally from the mid-west, and have opened our home to friends and family countless times over the past year. However, this case just doesn't warrant the stress and effort required. This time, it's all about sending the right signal about their relationship and it is an issue of the wife working through guilt and over-active people-pleasing tendencies.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the incredible array of suggestions and opinions. Although the wife is slightly bitter that "I won", she really does feel good about how it turned out. Saying no this woman was a liberating experience.
posted by jeffxl at 7:52 AM on January 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


The only reason Odysseus was able to survive the trip home was the hospitality of strangers. Even the suitors of Penelope treat him with a modicum of respect because he was a traveling vagabond upon his return to Ithaca. Likewise, his son Telemachus receives a princely welcome by Nestor and Menelaus even through no one had ever met him before.

While much of the Homeric hospitality for strangers was a function of culture and religion, it fostered a sense of community outside of their village or settlements.
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


When you visit a town, you should let all friends there know you're coming, ask if you can get together, and (if you're hoping for a free stay) ask if they have any recommendations on convenient, low-priced hotels.

If they are actually your friends (sometimes people have corporeal imaginary friends) and they want to see you for more than a drink and they have the room and time to entertain you, they might offer to put you up.

That's the closest you should get to inviting yourself in. Then the friends have the option of not answering you at all or of sending you to a hotel if they don't want you.
posted by pracowity at 8:34 AM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you've resolved this in a way that feels good to you, but I'm also going to go out on a limb with rabbitsnake et al. and say why not just have this woman over? Would it really be that much of a burden? Maybe she could return the favor and you could stay with her sometime if you were in her neighborhood.

I'm kind of surprised at a lot of the responses here, particularly the ones about family, but they say a lot about how much Americans treasure their privacy (or isolation, depending on how you look at it). Assuming, of course, that most posters here are American :-)
posted by walla at 8:36 AM on January 22, 2007


jeffxl, I'm glad it worked out for you and your wife in a way you're both happy with.
posted by occhiblu at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2007


I'm glad it worked out, too. But I'm with the others that I find it troubling how many people on here just reject the opportunity to help someone out. Part of the joy of having your own place is opening your doors to being hospitable to people who need a place to stay.

It strikes me as being not just cultural, but positively Ayn Randian - i.e. my selfish desire for "privacy" outweighs someone else's need for shelter.
posted by MythMaker at 1:44 PM on January 22, 2007


Oh, please, 'shelter'?

She's not homeless. She just wants a place to stay in New York for 2 weeks so she doesn't have to shell out cash for a hotel.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:58 PM on January 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm glad you've resolved this in a way that feels good to you, but I'm also going to go out on a limb with rabbitsnake et al. and say why not just have this woman over? Would it really be that much of a burden? Maybe she could return the favor and you could stay with her sometime if you were in her neighborhood.

Part of the joy of having your own place is opening your doors to being hospitable to people who need a place to stay.

He already said that he has no problem hosting friends and family of theirs. Do you folks regularly invite people your home to people with whom you were acquainted 10 years ago but don't particularly like? Do you leave the door unlocked in case any strangers need a place to crash?
posted by desuetude at 2:10 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do you folks regularly invite people your home to people with whom you were acquainted 10 years ago but don't particularly like? Do you leave the door unlocked in case any strangers need a place to crash?

I do, but I am aware this is not considered normal.
posted by jessamyn at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think there's a difference that comes in when you live in a huge tourist destination, though, too. I moved to Italy and suddenly a huge number of "long lost" "friends" decided they just had to catch up! Maybe they could sleep on the floor! Here was their flight info!

Strangely, they never wanted to catch up with me when I wasn't living in the middle of a totally gorgeous city whose hotels were generally outrageously expensive.

I would imagine New Yorkers face similar issues. It's one thing when someone wants to see you, it's another when they want to use your place as a free place to crash. There's some overlap, of course, but you often have to get a bit more selective about who you say yes to when it seems like half the world is asking.
posted by occhiblu at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


To reject someone asking if they can stay over (without fabricating some excuse) is an awkward thing to have to do

Not so. It is only awkward if you are both Guess people, in which case the situation would not have happened. If you are Guess and the person asking is a Ask person (as you know they are - because they're asking), then you know it's not awkward to tell them no, and you know that you don't need to give a reason, and you know that they are placing no expectation on your, nor will take it personally.

Guess awkwardness in saying no has no foundation outside Guess situations. Applying it to an obviously Ask request is a social error (normally due to unthinking habit), and blaming the Ask for creating a situation that allows the Guess to make an error is just dodging responsibility for making an unnecessary error instead of handling social interactions appropriately - address Ask people as Ask people, and address Guess people as Guess people.

If the person initiating the interaction has no way of knowing whether you are Guess or Ask, they are not at fault for the other person making the above error. If they should know whether the person is Guess or Ask, they would likewise be in error to initiate via the wrong manner.

Being socially functional means being able to recognise and interact with these camps appropriately. "Rude" is simply not meaningful or relevant in socially disfunctional scenarios - a framework must be present before a deviation from it can occur.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:18 AM on January 23, 2007 [15 favorites]


I think you are being very rude by not letting her stay. She's a relative, you have to let her stay unless you have a very good reason not to, like she stole from you last time she was there or a drug problem or something.

You have an obligation to let your relatives stay for a reasonable amount of time.
posted by nyxxxx at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2007


um, nyxxx: the person in question is NOT a relative... as the OP says in the first sentence, she is "one of [his] wife's distant friends."
posted by scody at 7:26 PM on January 23, 2007


Kudos to you for saying no.

And now, a story, to illustrate the problems with not being direct with someone. At Thanksgiving, my family and I learned that our friend who was due to pick us up at the airport could not do it, and we were suddenly without a ride home. Our plane landed at around 9 o'clock. Desperate, we compiled a list of friends who lived near the airport and us, and began calling. The first person on a list of about 10 said she could pick us up.
When we arrived, her kids were in the car, struggling to stay awake, and it was raining. She was in a pissy mood all the way home, and then the next day at work, lambasted my wife for asking her to do such a thing. My wife responded that her friend wasn't the only person on the list, and that she could have said 'no'. Friend replied that my wife should have never even asked.
This ended up causing a problem betwen my wife and her friend - my wife is a giving person and would do anything to help a friend in need, and so was deeply hurt to learn that her friend did not reciprocate, but importantly, it created a trust issue -- now my wife can't be sure when friend means what she says, because friend said "yes" when she meant "no".
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:56 AM on January 24, 2007 [12 favorites]


Thanks for the ask vs. guess analogy, I never thought of it that way before. I'm an Ask, and like Jessamyn, I enjoy having (short-term) visitors - you'll find me and my other Ask cohorts on Couchsurfing and other similar sites...
posted by Liosliath at 1:42 PM on January 24, 2007


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