Dear E. Jean: I recently moved to a beautiful and, unfortunately, popular spot for tourists, and now friends (and friends of friends) are constantly visiting. I’ve ended up paying for their parking, their gas, their laundry soap, their groceries. They don’t even seem interested in me or how I’m doing. They just drop their bags, dirty my fresh towels, and borrow my car! How do I accept visitors into my new home without ending up as their personal valet service? —The Tourist Attraction
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Attraction, My Iris: When I lived in Ennis, Montana, i.e., “the fly-fishing capital of the world,” a spot in the Rockies so sublime that carloads of acquaintances would roar up the driveway and burst in on our slow-paced tranquility unannounced, Steve and I—Steve was one of my early husbands—kept two big suitcases by the front door. Whenever a station wagon packed with pals showed up, we’d greet them with a hearty “Lovely seeing you! How fantastic you look! We’re just leaving,” whereupon we’d lock the door behind us and, hefting the bags into our pickup, back out of the driveway at 40 mph.
And then we’d go someplace marvelous for the day. Try it. Or if your “friends of friends” text, call, or email ahead, you can do the old “Oh-Fabulous-Great-Wonderful-Splendid-Meet-Me-at-the-Green-Parrot-at-7-p.m.-Sharp!” dodge. You then see them for a friendly drink, and that’s it. You do not invite them to your digs. You do not loan your car. You do not pick up the tab. If they ask to stay, tell them, “I’d adore it, but I’m in the middle of a special project.” (No need to say the project is your own blessed solitude.) Of course, if one of the visitors is very beautiful, you may take him or her in the car to a high mountaintop and make out in the moonlight, but only if you have plenty of gas.