True friendship is a folded-down couch and spare key. But even in the most relaxed household, there are invisible tripwires
Maybe you spent the break in your childhood home but somewhere in the last few decades your parents turned your bedroom into a sewing room and now you sleep on a fold-out couch that has a weird metal bar in the middle of it that sticks into your back. In the middle of the night you woke up, momentarily freaking out at the bolts of fabric looming over you that appeared, at first glance, to be a group of tall, thin men.
Maybe you were the one hosting guests and you reached for your favourite (expensive) shampoo only to realise it was ALL GONE because your guests helped themselves. Mystery hair has collected in your razor. Someone drank your special wine.
Or maybe you went away, entrusting your garden and your pet and all your things to a friend who loses her own wallet at least once a week. Your holiday then becomes a stressful refreshing of your phone to see her Instagram stories for pet and garden proof of life.
Or maybe you are the sort of family or individual who never has guests and who avoids being a guest, and for whom the hundreds of dollars spent on accommodation or an Airbnb nearby is the best money you’ll ever spend.
Because in each household where there is the promise of a spare room, even in the most relaxed household, there are invisible tripwires and rules that you’ll never guess, the chance of the slight but unexpressed thrum of tension when you drink from the wrong glass or even just the likelihood of a poor sleep on a fold-out couch.
Or maybe you are the sort for whom the offer and/or acceptance of a bed in a friend’s house is in itself a form not only of friendship, but a deepening of it.
That real friendship comes not after the nights at the bar and the barbecues and the shared activities – but this: folding down a couch or clearing out the spare room, stretching out a stiff, freshly washed and line-dried sheet, placing a cup of water on the bedside table and a spare key, and having the same done for you when you are a guest.
Yet the hospitable exchange can be fraught. It can be easier to muck up and offend when you are in someone’s house – get them the wrong gift or no gift at all, leave a mess, take things and liberties, get underfoot, outstay your welcome.
Then add kids to the mix and different styles of parenting and the tripwires multiply.
You are more likely to discover a friend’s hard limits when you stay in each other’s houses.
You find all this out when you arrive at the threshold with your overnight bag and the best of intentions.
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