Dreading a visit from some old friends? Heed Elizabeth von Arnim's wise words and you might just have a fabulous time!

October 14, 2021
Dreading a visit from some old friends?   Heed Elizabeth von Arnim's wise words and you might just have a fabulous time!
Green Tea PomegranateJoe le Taxi by Vanessa Paradis

Dear Erica,

I’m having some old friends to stay next weekend, and although I adore them, I’m rather dreading it. I just don't want us to get on each other's nerves. Do you have any advice?

Nervous in New York

Dear Nervous in New York,

A friend once told me after her relatives had visited for a week that the best days were the day they arrived and the day they left. This viewpoint is certainly not modern. As Elizabeth von Arnim writes in her memoir, Elizabeth and her German garden, “it has actually happened once or twice when great friends have been staying with me that I have wished, when they left, I might not see them again for at least ten years.” Even our dearest friends can wear on us. And why is that? Is it their fault? Or is it ours?

Again, Elizabeth von Arnim has the answer, “I suppose the fact is, that no friendship can stand the breakfast test...though my body comes down mechanically, having been trained that way by punctual parents, my soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine.” Having guests stay with you is hard because even if we are being visited by our dearest friends or family, we want to be charming, and polite, and show them how lovely our lives are. We want them to have a good time, and we put on a facade that allows us to “come down to breakfast” like Elizabeth, but our soul is constantly hidden. We can’t yell, snarl, or whinge as we would normally do. And so it is not necessarily the guests that drive you crazy, but being unable to wear curlers down to breakfast. Not literally. But emotionally. And perhaps we resent our dearest friends more for this imposition because we think with them, we should be able to be our true selves.

This might explain why you are anxious about your friends visiting, and my only advice is perhaps to consider what Elizabeth says and don’t “wake up for other people till lunch-time.” Avoid each other, give yourselves some space. Allow yourself a little time in the morning to be moody and alone. You can’t be happy and cheerful all the time and if you acknowledge that, and recognize that a good friend will appreciate that, you’ll probably have a fabulous time.