Confessions of a Horrible Houseguest

If one measures his houseguest desirability by the number of times he's invited back, I'm batting in the negative integers. My rep is so bad that I've been disinvited when my reputation beats me to the front door. You can imagine how horrified my wife was.

So, in the interest of receiving a couple of re-invites, here are some lessons I've learned about “good houseguesting" that I plan to practice from now on.

Obey the Unspoken Curfew
Last year, my wife Diana and I had fun over the holidays, staying with our friends in their huge NYC loft. We haven't been invited back. Diana says I blew it the night I went out with some guy friends, lost my key, and ended up waking our hosts and their baby at 4 a.m. It also didn't help that, in my drunkenness, I teased my bleary-eyed friend mercilessly about his bedhead and then proceeded to raid the fridge.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have stayed out so late in the first place. Next time I'll ask my hosts about their nighttime schedule and obey the law. It limits my barhopping hours, but when I consider the alternative -- a cot at Motel 6 -- I know it's a smart move.

Don't Do as You're Told
One refrain hosts love to use is, “Don't worry about it." I ask if I can help clean the dishes. “Sit down, relax -- don't worry about it." I ask if they'd like me to change the bed. “We've got it -- don't worry about it." What I realize now? “Don't worry about it" really means “Just do it, you idiot."

Hosts will rarely ask for favors, but, man, how they love receiving them. So from now on, I vow to exceed their expectations: cooking a surprise dinner, supplying my own towels, and -- drumroll, please -- doing the dishes after every meal.

Do Crap You Don't Wanna Do
When we stay with people, we're typically in vacation mode, so I treat it as such. But, apparently, there's a difference between a holiday at a friend's home and at the Holiday Inn. I've gotten dirty looks for sleeping in late, watching the game while everyone else is out at the Renaissance Faire, and bringing back Starbucks -- just for myself.

Once a friend grilled us salmon for dinner, and I sent it back because it had too many bones. Diana was mortified. What? I have a phobia of choking. Bottom line: I was only thinking about Numero Uno and needed to change. Little things, like offering to pick up DVDs or making a morning coffee run for everyone in the house, go a long way. Bonus points if you take their orders (no foam, extra hot, decaf -- you get the idea).

Show Some Gratitude Already
Writing a thank-you note to your hosts is an absolute must. It's also about as natural to a guy as French braiding. I often forget to do it, and even if I do remember, it's difficult for me to betray my masculinity and stop by Papyrus to purchase the card.

My solution for the digital age: a quick one-line email, e-card, or “thank-you" link to photos taken from the weekend. Or broker a deal: If your spouse writes the card, you'll agree to do some annoying task your other half doesn't want to bother with.

The lessons here? I learned to treat being a houseguest as a privilege, not a free pass. I learned to pitch in and not sit back. Oh, and just so you know…we're free on Presidents', Memorial, and Arbor Day. So, when's my invite coming in the mail?

Find out how to rescue your space from food, drinks, and klutzes with our ultimate party stain guide.

Search 100s of delish party food recipes.