Larry Banman: Get comfortable and ‘make yourself at home’
December 26, 2007
When you visit good friends and family, a lot of times they will tell you to “make yourself at home.”
I’ve always wondered what that really means. Sometimes “make yourself at home” is preceded with “take your shoes off and . . .” or “help yourself to something out of the fridge and . . .”
To me, that phrase sounds like the person wants you to feel comfortable enough to act like you are at your own home. It indicates a familiarity between people that encourages you to be so at ease that you can act as if you are at your own home.
However, I think the phrase is sometimes bandied about too casually.
Sometimes people don’t really expect or intend you to act as if you are at home. I’ve found, over the years, there are generally guidelines and expectations associated with “make yourself at home.”
For example, make yourself at home generally allows you to take off your shoes and ease into a comfortable spot on the couch. What it doesn’t give you permission to do is lay down under an afghan and fall into a deep, snore-filled, drool-inducing coma.
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“Make yourself at home” might allow for a request to watch the Celtics vs. Pistons game. It doesn’t mean grab the remote control and pan aimlessly through the available channels. “Make yourself at home” means you can ask, “What’s cooking, it sure smells great.” It doesn’t mean strongly hinting the next morning’s breakfast be biscuits and gravy ” made from scratch.
For me, the real rub with “make yourself at home” occurs on those overnight stays with friends or family. When I travel, I almost always forget some toiletry item. When I had longer hair, it often was a comb or brush. When my wife and I travel together, invariably we assume the other person has packed the toothpaste. Or, we both assume the other person forgot. At any rate, we don’t know what it is like to travel with one tube of paste. It is either two or none. If I forget Q-tips, that will be the trip when my ears need a good cleaning. If I forget the tweezers, a splinter is guaranteed. And I can’t remember the last time I remembered the shampoo.
The other day, I was wondering if “make yourself at home” extends to the use of toiletries. It turns out some people are pretty touchy about open access to their toiletries. I have always assumed shampoo and soap were open game.
Toothbrushes are definitely off limits, but what about toothpaste. Technically, if your toothbrush touches the toothpaste, is that really any different than just grabbing your host’s toothbrush and putting a quick shine on your ivories? And what about razors?
Do you walk around all day with a growth of whiskers or do you sneak a disposable out of your host’s vanity?
I wish the lines were more clearly drawn. It probably is at the level of “if you have to open a drawer or the medicine cabinet to find it, it is probably off limits.” My own personal test is how I answer the following question: “If I use this (fill in the blank) would I be willing to confess such action in a room full of people and not bury my head in shame?” If I can answer in the affirmative, then its open season on whatever item I am considering the use of. Not everybody, however, has my same
share-and-let-share attitude. In my house, you can do about anything you want except use my toothbrush and drink milk straight out of the jug. But I understand that some people have a more rigid set of standards.
So, if you invite me over and say “make yourself at home,” please explain what you mean. If you don’t define the boundaries, don’t come crying to me when you find your shampoo bottle is empty or that chicken leg is missing. Because, I will have “made myself at home.”
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