When we bought our home I became a number of things: an official grown up, in more debt that I can count, a cohabitee and a co-mortgage holder. But, more alarmingly, the purchase of land and walls and rooms to call my own made me become even more unreasonable than I ever thought possible.
If it wasn’t weird, disgusting and, frankly, logistically problematic for a woman to wee all around her house, marking her territory like a dog with a medieval style moat, then by god I would do it.
You see, the wonderful thing about having a place of your own is that – with the exception of boilers, power cuts and unexpected mice who pop by uninvited – you can control what happens within it. You decide which will be your handbag drawer, how the DVD filing system works, and your policy on how long it’s acceptable for the fridge door to be left open.
And this is fine when it’s just you in the house, queen of your one-bed castle. But what about when the king comes home? Or you have guests? How do you make sure everybody keeps to the house rules without making them wish they’d never visited?
I find it very hard to strike this balance. In theory, I love having people over, inviting them into our home, telling them the riveting story behind the purchase of our curtains, welcoming them hilariously to Ikea when they enter our bedroom. But in practice, the edge is taken off somewhat when they arrive and – instead of concentrating on the excitement of seeing a loved one – all I can think is: How soon is too soon to ask you to take your shoes off?
And when I do eventually ask, I try and disguise the level to which it matters to me (which is LOADS in case you hadn’t already gathered) by laughing and apologising and waving my hands about to shake off the illusion of *crazy*. It definitely works.
But friends – though they may silently think you’re in need of psychotherapy – will at least humour you in the interests of a quiet life. But family find having you attempt to rule the roost a little strange. You see, adults you’ve grown up with are so used to telling you what to do, that it’s very odd to suddenly find yourself saying “Mum, can you use a coaster please?!” when five minutes ago she was telling you to get out of the pantry, stop eating the glacé cherries and do your homework.
I spend the duration of any visit having to hold myself back from stalking our caller’s every movement. What are they getting up to in that bathroom? They aren’t dropping crumbs on the rug are they?! My priorities are all in the wrong order.
Of course it doesn’t really matter if a hot drink touches the table, or a shoe sets foot on the floor, or even if – god forbid – the butter knife ventures into the honey. I should just be grateful that anyone has travelled to see me.
There must be a compromise. I don’t see me becoming any less controlling any time soon – especially considering the level to which the knife/honey scenario made me shudder – and I don’t think my friends or family are going to come a-calling again if I keep putting my hand under their chin every time they take a bite of biscuit.
So next time, I think it’s best that I go to them. It’s only so long before following someone into your bathroom goes from ‘funny’ to ‘restraining order’.