Weekend at Cindy’s–or Not!

Yes, I know. Everyone loves the Eastern End of Long Island! We bought our place in the Lanes in 2006. It’s not the biggest lot; it was close to the top of the market. But the property is beautiful; the house has a lot of character; and we can walk to the beach, town, and all things “Amagansett.” For us, it’s perfect—unfortunately, it’s a little too perfect, for too many people. And while we love some guests, others make you feel as dead as Bernie by the time they leave—and at least, he was having fun.

And that got me thinking. How had we become the repository of loser guest stories, and how could I spare others from falling victim to a similar fate? While the New York Times publishes the Tiffany rules for “Good Guest” behavior, something much more robust is needed for overnight guests in the Hamptons. So, based on a variety of experiences, I came up with some new rules. And nowhere can they be of better use than to appear in Dan’s Papers.

A GOOD guest should…

1. Tell me WHEN you’re coming. You’re not a bunch of cicadas. You don’t just show up when the weather gets warm “sometime this summer.” And at least with the cicadas, the visit is only expected once every 17 years. But seriously, if you can make a plane reservation months in advance to get great fares, why can’t you relay the information to me sooner than a couple of days before? And let me know what TIME you’re coming. Last I checked, I’m not hosting the Time Warner guy or the LIPA people. You should be able to give me an idea—before pulling into my driveway—of what time you plan to arrive. And please be a little more specific. Because I might think “late afternoon” means 4:00-5:00pm—not 12:15pm because your kids finish lunch at 11:30am.

2. Understand that while we may be in that 15 minutes of the day that actually doesn’t revolve around food, no one will starve. Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, even catering companies don’t think about food as much as some of the people who walk through our door. If we’re not planning for it, shopping for it, checking allergies associated with it, eating it, cleaning it up, or thinking about food, we’re wondering whether anyone’s ever fed this child before he comes to our house? Really? Four chicken sandwiches, three apples pies, two wraps, large fries, and he still wants more? That’s not a meal; it’s a tape worm. And, it’s NOT always easier to “just stay in” versus going out. It’s easier for you because you can keep drinking, and don’t have to manage your difficult child/relative in a public setting; but it’s not always easier for us to deal with big meals for everyone—especially since it usually means EVERYTHING’s on the menu at ALL times. And it’s NOT necessarily easier when YOU cook. If we pay for everything, clean up, and watch as everything else in our house is devoured because it’s taken you five hours to cook this creation, that’s not a favor; that’s a hobby—yours.

3. Re: Food again (of course)—feel free to micromanage your own family’s nutrition, but let me manage mine. I understand you’ve got the whole nutrition-Nazi, midlife thing going on here. I recognize you’d just as soon see your family smoke (as long as it’s organic), or drink (as long as it’s whole-wheat based grain alcohol), rather than stray from your required regimen of water, Life Cereal, flax chips, and 1% Milk—yes, we know our fat-free, 2%, and Lactaid milks won’t suffice. And it’s okay if you forbid ANY sugar in ANY form in your house. But it’s NOT okay if your nine year old chastises me when I bake cookies in mine—and not just because we all have our “vices.” But because, relatively speaking, mine’s not so bad considering the only way her father gets through the day with you is to smoke so much weed, he’s baked more often than my cookies are.

4. Understand that if your spouse needs to take drugs to deal with you (prescription or otherwise), chances are, we’re going to need a lot more. JUST KIDDING—DON’T TAKE DRUGS! But seriously, if you need to do that, maybe it’s not a doctor or drugs you need—maybe it’s a lawyer and something else that starts with the letter “d?”

5. Understand it’s not cool if we pay for everything, other than the “one-offs” at the coffee shop or the beach. This isn’t a date and we’re not trying to sleep with you. The “pleasure” of your company is not enough here. It DOESN’T all work out in the end if we pick up the grill meats and dinner tabs for nine people, and you pick up popcorn at the movies.

6. Understand that if you have so many allergies I can’t figure out how you made it out of your house without a protective bubble, maybe you shouldn’t come to mine? Everyone is allergic to something—we have fruit, nut, seafood, and antibiotic allergies in our family. We also have Benadryl and Epi-pens. What we don’t have is the patience to worry so much about allergies that our house becomes a facility definitely containing nuts—not the ones you eat.

7. Understand this is not Club Med, a Spa, or even a Bed and Breakfast. We’re not supposed to be working for you, or keeping you perfectly entertained EVERY minute. Just because you wake up at 5:30am for the kids, the older folks, or even the Pilates guy in Sag Harbor, does NOT mean we have to join you. And no, you do not have the right to march into my bedroom, or the one we crammed the kids into so we could accommodate you, because you’re bored and want us to get up. Similarly, life as we know it does not have to stop because you or someone in your family sleeps during the day or goes to bed at 8:00pm. I shouldn’t have to learn sign language to have a normal adult conversation. If you’re bothered by clocks, sprinklers, beeps from appliances, etc., you’re welcomed to see, for $500-$1,500 a night, if Gansett Green Manor or Ocean Dunes has figured out a better way to tell time, water lawns, and wash dishes.

8. Understand that if you’re so afraid of the sand, the scene, the wasps, or the sun that you need to dress up like an astronaut on the beach…well, I don’t even have a funny comeback for that one—why did you come here?

9. Recognize that the girl/guy you just met at the bar/party cannot stay over. And yes, if you’re a guest in this house, you are either too old or too young for that sort of thing.

10. Realize there is no such thing as a standing invitation. Just because I was suckered into letting you come the last three years over that same week/weekend does not mean we’re running a free timeshare here. Also, if your visits are so frequent that somebody who didn’t know you might suspect a “Brokeback” arrangement with my husband, you’re coming too often.

11. Figure out that THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU. If I actually summon up the courage to subtly address any of the above with you, please don’t tell me that I don’t have to worry, and you had a great time. And thanks, I know it’s not my fault about the traffic and the weather—that’s not where I was going with this. And yes, I know the world doesn’t revolve around me either. But it’s my house, remember—the one you invited yourself to?

So can we just forget about what Tiffany’s says? Because frankly, I don’t need another thank-you note when you leave, or a towel with a lobster on it when you arrive. All I need is my sanity, and to have a little fun with you while you’re here. And to be fair, no single group of guests inspired all of these rules—Bernie, the dead one, couldn’t get through that weekend! And hopefully, after this essay, I won’t have to either!