I can’t really remember many adults coming to my house after my mother passed away, we had the shiva minyan and than I think we had a dry spell on guests for about 20 years. My old man picked up and moved to Far Rockaway and memories of the old bachelor pad started to fade. I literally grew up in a bachelor pad, there are certain things which people take for granted that I never even knew about. Take for instance, giving your guest fresh sheets or a fresh set of towels, I always thought you just washed them with the laundry, which was whenever they started to smell.
I’m pretty sure that the floor to ceiling walls covered in posters of extreme sports athletes and playboy models wouldn’t have really brought a lot of adult guests into our home either, we had lots of our childhood friends over, but the occasional adult was years in between. Even when I started to date, it was usually elsewhere, so I didn’t really have to explain why there were half naked girls on the walls of frum home, why we ate our shabbos meals in our underwear while reading the Jewish Press. Actually, I still have this thing about feeling comfortable enough in someone’s home to walk around without a shirt or in my underwear, surprisingly enough I have a list of maybe 10 places where I can truly feel like home.
What really prepared me for the world of hosting was traveling, I’ve stayed in hundreds of peoples homes throughout the past 15 years or so and have had a wide range of hosting experiences. I still can’t get used to people giving me a fresh hand towel and I always wonder why waste money on hand towels, when big towels do the job better. I’m also not so sure about folks offering me to make myself at home, because at 2 in the morning when they hear noise in the kitchen, they always have this look of horror when they catch me helping myself to their shabbos leftovers.
So naturally, within my own hosting development I’ve begun to think about all the things I hate and what I would do to change such things. My wife and I are borderline addicted to guests, for me it all has to do with thinking back to my lonely single days when I just wished someone would invite me instead of having to invite myself all the time. I also think about the people who don’t get invited much and try to have them over more often than not. I myself was a last minute “20 minutes before shabbos, don’t have a place to stay/eat” kind of guy and so I welcome those folks as well.
Hosting is not a natural thing, if I wasn’t married, they would sleep on the same sheets that every other person slept on in the last month, the towels would be “clean” because they had no stains on them, but luckily the wife was actually brought up in a pretty normal home. You know, two parents, those extra sheets that go between the blanket on the person, hand towels, parents wearing clothing, probably not washing their paper plates, no naked posters on the walls, etc…So she’s taught me somethings about hosting. For instance, she makes seating charts, cleans the carpet (gets really pissed off about me dragging invasive species from the garden onto the carpet) and makes sure the bathroom is clean. I take care of the food and offering unwanted shidduch advice in the form of screaming at our guests for their stupidities.
The most awkward thing is hosting really frum people, sure, we’re frum, but from the home set up perspective we’re modern orthodox. We don’t offer our guests bedside negel vasser service, we don’t have a shiny set of never used shas and our guest bedroom doesn’t even have a shabbos lamp (I hear our future children will have to put that in their shidduch resumes) Not having a pizza store is one thing, but giving someone the option of violating shabbos due to a lack of shabbos lamp is on a whole new madreiga.
The other important thing to being a good host and actually making someone feel at home is to give them a key. Coming and going as one pleases is a sure fire way to allow them to not be awkward, because there’s nothing worse than a guest who stays in their room the whole time. You think we’re having guests because we like doing extra loads of laundry and feeding them for free? You think it’s for hachnasos orchim mitzvas and olam habah brownie points? Nope, it’s purely because we want some entertainment out of them. Kind of like when someone says you need to tell a devar torah for desert.
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