Belinda contacted us with a problem: “I have been invited to visit friends over Christmas. Much as I love them and enjoy their company, I don’t want to stay in their house. I’d much rather be in a hotel in my own space and come and go as I please. How can I decline without causing offence?”
It’s a tricky pronblem. But here’s an idea.
No two Christmasses are alike. What seems like an obvious and ordinary way of organising the festivities to you will seem weird and outlandish to others.
So play on this. Here’s what you say.
“We’re SO looking forward to seeing you. Just a couple of things.
I hope you don’t mind, but we always open our presents at midnight on Boxing Day. For us, Christmas Day is a day of fasting and meditation, though we allow ourselves some onions and bread at 10pm. I’m sure your children will understand.
We’re really low-maintenance as guests. As long as the temperature in the room is exactly 21.3 degrees, I’m fine. Any higher and lower and I tend to howl uncontrollably and chew the sheets. And the room has to be south-south-west facing. I also steal TV remote controls. Sorry – it’s a psychiatric compulsion.
My partner is no trouble at all. He has to eat every two hours, however – except on Christmas Day, obviously, when he plays the bagpipes for at least five hours. He only drinks vintage Burgundy. He cannot be in the same house as any poultry and is allergic to the colour blue. I’m sure your children will understand.
On the other hand, we can always stay in a hotel and pop around for drinks if you’d prefer”.
Or you be frank and straightforward.
“Look, it’s really sweet of you to ask, but isn’t Christmas stressful enough without having two extra people in the house? Even if you’re saints and don’t get stressed, we will. You know what it’s like when you get older. You want your own things around you. You get up when you like, make a mess of the bathroom, eat weird things at weird times. We’ll stay in a hotel – they’re used to that mind of thing.”
Here’s betting your friends will reply:
“To be honest, that’s a bit of a relief. We really didn’t want to subject you to our two year old on Christmas morning. I’ve never learned to cook a turkey and we always have a huge row when the Queen comes on. By 6pm the house looks like the aftermath of World War III. I don’t blame you. Do your own thing.”