Get Me Outta Here

For some, staying at a friend’s house is a treat. For others, it’s a torment. (Why, oh why, is the cat so noisy? And who can sleep with just one pillow?) Here, Judith Newman explains all the reasons that—no offense!—she would simply rather stay home.

Photo by David Pfeifroth/Getty Images

“I am leaving,” I murmured to my husband.

“You cannot leave,” he hissed back. “It is 3 a.m. These are our friends.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll just find a hotel and be back here in time for breakfast. They won’t even know I left.”

“You cannot do this again! People think we’re mad. You cannot leave someone’s house just because a doorknob is sticky.”

Oh, but it wasn’t just the doorknob. It was everything, at least in my mind. This was about 10 years ago, and my husband and I had been invited as weekend guests to the home of dear friends with a one-year-old son. This was before I had my own kids, before I realized that the essential condition of childhood is stickiness and that I would spend the first five years of their lives fearfully clutching wet wipes.

Right then I knew only one thing: A doorknob was whispering to me, all Amityville Horror–like: GET. OUT.

I have never been a good houseguest. And—despite what this episode might imply—it’s not because I’m impressively fastidious. I am a complete slob in my own home, albeit one with dry, noncling surfaces.

But after years of trying very hard to enjoy myself when other people invite me over for the weekend, I’ve basically given up. I like to think I’m the best kind of guest: one who doesn’t actually stay with you.

Oddly, people don’t always see it my way. Particularly the house-proud, those who love their 1,000-count sheets and cunning window treatments and Viking stoves with the special tiny flame for heating chocolate or whatever the hell it does—those people don’t like me. They don’t like me a lot. I have lost friends over my inability to just get with the program and bask in their hostessy generosity.