Skip to main content
// //

The question

My husband and I have a couple of friends who don’t have a lot of money. (Nor do we, for that matter.) One of them chooses to travel the world and have no fixed address, staying with incredibly patient friends for extended periods. The other out-of-towner is just always broke and has an adult child in our city and wants to visit the “kid” very frequently, but the kid usually gets fed up after a few days, so the parent winds up at our place, hurt over being rejected. Although we do appreciate these two (quite separate) friends, we’re not so keen on being seen as the available port every time either of them comes to town. The lack of help in terms of housework and food and wine expenses is certainly part of the problem. The second friend is now threatening to visit yet again. We don’t really see how to tactfully say: “Enough, already. Your kid needs a break and so do we.” Any tips on how to keep away freeloading friends without alienating them entirely, or hurting their feelings? Should we just lie and say our guest room is occupied?

The answer

House guests in general are a problematic proposition.

I’ve always tried to be a good one. Helping out, doing dishes, making some of the meals and so on. Thus, I get invited back.

Story continues below advertisement

But I’ve had house guests put in much less effort. We all know the old saw “house guests, like fish, go off after three days.” But I’ve had house guests stay for much more epic amounts of time than that. And so often rude, ungrateful and disrespectful.

My cousin stayed six months. After being waited on hand and foot, gave me a hard time about eating some of his special peanut butter.

Me: “You must go now.”

Once the sister of someone I sort of/kind of knew came to stay with us. For several weeks. With young child in tow.

Also waited on her hand and foot. Shopped for groceries, wine, made special dinners, laundered their bedclothes and everything else entailed in trying to be a good host.

Then towards the end of the second week, she left a bottle of wine in my fridge, which I swear I thought my wife had probably purchased so popped it open and had a glass.

She discovered the bottle and said: “Dave, I was going to bring that to a party. I could punch you in the face right now.”

Story continues below advertisement

My reaction: “Why are you in my house? What’s in it for me?”

And: “Are you and your obnoxious little brat ever leaving?”

Not that I said that out loud.

My point being: We refer to ourselves as Homo sapiens (wise man), which always struck me as rather hubristic, but the more I circle around the sun, the more I think perhaps the more appropriate moniker would be homo ingratitudinous.

I’ve always thought one of the great benefits of having a roof between the rain and snow and one’s dome is to be able to offer that selfsame roof to others.

I’ve felt very privileged whenever I’ve been the beneficiary of that transaction, e.g. hitchhiking around Europe as a 19-year-old (and sometimes using a fake first-class Eurail pass until a couple of conductors became suspicious of my patched jeans and rucksack and kicked me off the train, just as I was having a great conversation with a wealthy-looking elderly couple) and on numerous other occasions.

Story continues below advertisement

People put me up: Sometimes out of the blue. I met a guy on a bridge in Venice once, while petting a cat. A little chit-chat, then he let me stay at his place.

The night before I tried to sleep at the train station, along with other travelling indigents, but they fire-hosed us all out. So I really appreciated the gesture.

But as far as your situation goes, I would gently but firmly turn these freeloaders down.

You ask should you “lie.” I would not “lie” per se, but perhaps prevaricate a bit (okay, I know “prevaricate” is essentially a synonym for "lie,” but give me that mulligan) and say words to the effect of: “It’s not a good time right now.”

And don’t you dare feel guilty about it. I love being able to provide a roof, but no one is under any obligation to do so for the unhelpful and ungrateful.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

Story continues below advertisement

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies