Written by Rowan Whiteside

Voices

Uninvited

What’s the point of social networks if not to use them for being unsociable? Rowan Whiteside calls time on uninvited guests.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

You’re slouched on the sofa in your pyjamas, staring gormlessly at some appalling television (Storage Hunters, anyone?), when the doorbell rings.

It’s probably just another chugger shivering on the doorstep, about to paste an imploring smile on their face. But it could be a courier with a surprise parcel. Or maybe the police. So you heave yourself up and open the door, craning your head through the gap.

“SURPRISE! We were in the neighbourhood, and we just thought we’d drop round!”

Now, if you’re the sort of person who thinks, “How lovely!” and whose heart fills with joy at the thought of entertaining, then you can probably stop reading now. If (like me) your first thought is, “Shit the house is a mess and I’ve eaten all the biscuits,” read on.

I’m chronically untidy, terminally scruffy.* The threat of visitors is one of the few things that encourages me to clean the house – there’s nothing like shame to motivate me. I live in a pigsty, and I’ve reconciled myself to that. But that doesn’t mean I want other people knowing.

“Nobody ever turns up when the house is tidy. If you’ve just hoovered, cooked a nutritious and healthy meal, and polished every available surface, like a successful adult adulting, then the doorbell will remain unrung.”

So, when someone turns up without warning, I’m confronted with my own filth. I’ll usher them in with a gritted-teeth grin, gesturing wildly in an attempt to distract them from all of the stuff.

I’ll be kicking debris under the sofa and trying to maintain a relaxed conversation, all the while telling myself that they’re my friends; they won’t care about a bit of clutter. When I leave the room to make cups of tea, I’m praying they won’t follow me through to the kitchen while imagining the conversation they’ll have when they get home: “Wasn’t her house a mess! I couldn’t live like that.”

The thing is, nobody ever turns up when the house is tidy. It’s Sod’s Law in action. If you’ve just hoovered, cooked a nutritious and healthy meal, and polished every available surface (*jokes* I’ve never polished), like a successful adult adulting, then the doorbell will remain unrung.

Halfway through a takeaway, foil containers strewn around the room, the scent of curry suppurating, one empty wine bottle rolling around the floor, one half full and lolling in the corner of a sofa – an arm’s reach away, so you can refill without budging – that’s when your mum will come over to drop off the post. (Coincidentally when this happened, she walked through the door the exact moment the sex scene in the movie started, making it seem as if I was simultaneously watching soft porn and trying to cross the obesity threshold. Ambitious, even for me.)

Matching that in the awkward stakes was the time the next-door neighbour got locked out when she went to fetch her Dominos, and knocked on my door in her dressing gown and slippers.

Both of us were cringing with humiliation – me at the state of my house, her because of her state of undress. She ended up eating her pizza surrounded by piles of laundry, as I desperately tried to tidy around her. After I’d finally managed to get one room presentable, she announced her desire to move into the front room to wait for her boyfriend’s parents (the only ones who answered the phone, oh the embarrassment), which of course was also a slovenly pit.

I ended up following her into the front room, still frantically neatening, cursing myself for not having the foresight to have focused my energies there in the first place, so it might have seemed as if the back of the house was an anomaly and actually I was an immaculate, clean-living individual. (In hindsight, she probably thought I was following her to try to dissuade her from burgling the house.)

“I’m calling time on the uninvited guest. No more! No just popping by, dropping in, no stopping to say hello. Enough! Let’s start an uninterrupted revolution!”

Now, getting locked out of your house in your pyjamas is an adequate reason for an impromptu visit. But in the age of instant communication, are there that many excuses for dropping by unannounced? I’m contactable by phone, text, Whatsapp, Twitter, email, and even Facebook – what’s the point of social networks, if not to utilise them in being unsociable? (Or at least sociable in small bursts, where wearing food-stained clothes is not a hindrance.)

If people want to see me in person, and for some unknowable reason the pub doesn’t appeal, for the love of God give me 20 minutes of warning to shove the most unsightly items away. A quick word of caution and I’d actually be happy to see them, rather than feeling like a puppy that’s just had its nose thrust in its puddle of wee.

So I’m calling time on the uninvited guest. No more! No just popping by, dropping in, no stopping to say hello. Enough! Let’s start an uninterrupted revolution!

All you need to do is send this on to all your friends, informing them of your change of status, and if they still have the temerity to turn up unannounced just turn all the lights off and hide behind the sofa (like they’re trick-or-treaters).

And remember, uninvited guests are like vampires.** Once you’ve let them past the threshold of the front door, they’ll pitch up any time – only not even with a bottle of wine – expecting to be entertained. Best to just wave your stake threateningly and head them off at the first pass.

*Look, I’ve got better things to do than tidy. Like working my way through that cardboard box of Mills & Boons I found in the garage.

**My friend H read this and suggested I rewrote the whole article with tips on how guests are like vampires. I can’t be bothered with that, but:

• Uninvited guests do not like the reek of garlic on your breath. Ward them off by breathing heavily on them when you answer the door. If necessary, pop a whole clove in your mouth before cheek-kissing them hello.

• Hanging a crucifix in your front room will make it clear they are not welcome. You can also use it as a deterrent if anyone comes around preaching religion, primarily by pointing at it and screaming, “I’VE ALREADY FOUND GOD!”

• Keep a gun and a package of silver bullets by the door. This will alert the uninvited guest that you are prepared to shoot them if necessary, shortening their visit considerably.

• Never turn your back on an uninvited guest. They will take this as an invitation to lunge for your neck and suck your blood.

• Uninvited guests probably sleep in coffins. That’s the reason their own houses are so tidy, and they think it’s acceptable to come over. BECAUSE THEY’RE UNDEAD.

@DilysTolfree

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Written by Rowan Whiteside

Rowan Whiteside is a writer, reader, and consummate gin-drinker. She is never without a book and sheds to-do-lists wherever she goes. Like everyone else, she is currently working on her first novel.