Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in an exotic location, even though it's simply where I'm from. I went to school in the United States, and many of my friends from school like to come and visit me. When they come, they expect me to host them for their entire vacation. It's almost like they think my home is their hotel. Don't get me wrong: I want to see my friends, but I am not a travel agent or a bed-and-breakfast. I can't afford to host them the way they expect, and I have to work. I can't be off the whole time they are at my house, but they don't seem to understand this and get mad at me. What should I say to them? -- Not a Hotel, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

DEAR NOT A HOTEL: It's time to speak plainly to your friends. Tell them how much you love them and appreciate them coming to visit, but state that you are not a hotel. Tell them you hope they will continue to come to visit, but that you need them to understand your parameters. Then lay them out.

Establish the appropriate length of time for visits. Describe how you hope the meals will go -- with everyone pitching in so that you don't become the sole cook or provider of meals. Talk about what you have to do while they are in town, especially if you have to work. Remind them that they are coming for vacation, but this is where you live and work. Be clear with them. You may find that some of them choose to stay in a hotel and visit with you rather than crash at your place the whole time, especially if you make it clear that they cannot have free run of your house, refrigerator and time. By the way, you don't have to feel bad about this. Remember: You are not a hotel. You are a friend, and a good friend at that.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a misunderstanding with my next-door neighbor, who has been a dear friend for many years. I hosted an event for my colleagues at my home and did not invite her. She thought I was having a party for friends and her feelings were hurt. When I reached out to her to talk the next day, I learned that she was upset. I was surprised. As much as we like each other, neither of us invites the other to every event we host. I don't think she should have been invited to this event, but I feel bad that she's upset. How can I help her to feel better? -- Unneighborly, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR UNNEIGHBORLY: Invite your neighbor over for tea and chat with her about the event. Tell her that you hosted a gathering of colleagues and talk a little bit about the event. Then, tell her that you believe she's upset because she wasn't invited. Remind her that both of you host events for different groups. Sometimes it's right to be included, sometimes it's not. Assure her that you love her just as much. The end.