Entertaining Rule No. 12: Set Wake-Up Expectations

New rules for guests and hosts.
Sept. 18 2013 2:00 PM

Rule No. 12: Set Wake-Up Expectations

she sleep
Watch your step!

Photo byRetrofiile/Getty Images.

I love hosting out-of-town friends overnight, but living in a 560-square-foot apartment poses certain challenges. For instance, when your 6-foot-5 friend Cole visits from Chicago for the weekend, whether or not you have the physical space to house his sleeping body becomes a very real question. But the most vexing conundrum I face hosting Cole (or any other guest) isn’t a problem of geometry; it’s one of circadian rhythms. In my experience, rarely do host and guest operate on a common sleep schedule.

For those fortunate enough to have a separate guest room, this disjuncture poses less of a problem. A separate sleeping space allows the host to wake up, make breakfast, and do the crossword while her guest snoozes soundly. Understandably, many guests will want to take advantage of the mini-vacation that an overnight trip represents and sleep in a bit—if you have the luxury of a guest room, let them!

But for those of us living in confined quarters where your every twitch risks rudely awakening your guest, ninjaing your way across the living room to the kitchenette is a regular requirement. That’s how, one recent Saturday morning, I found myself tip-toeing around the edge of an air mattress, hopping atop the armchair, and half-leaping into the kitchen area to make coffee. I’d like to say I did all this with the grace of Ginger Rogers, but in reality it must have looked like a 4-year-old playing a game of “the floor is made of lava.”

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So what are the mismatched guest and host to do? If the guest wakes up early and enterprisingly brews a pot of coffee, she risks making the host feel guilty for not doing so first. If the guest snoozes or (as I’ve done before) pretends to be slumbering while the host stirs around, the guest looks like a layabout. Is there any way to win?

Yes. Like any good relationship, the host/guest symbiosis thrives on clearly communicated expectations. In most cases, it’s safe to assume the burden of setting boundaries is on the host. If you’re harboring someone overnight and you’re a naturally late sleeper, fess up! Tell your guest, “I usually try to roust myself by 11, but if I’m not up by then, pound on my door. If that’s too late for you, I’ll give you a copy of my key and you can meander to the coffee shop around the corner.” Or, alternately, “If I don’t take Sparky out by 6 a.m. every morning, he’ll micturate on the floor, so it’s best for everyone if I get up then. I’ll try not to wake you, but if I do feel free to make a passive-aggressive comment upon my return.” If you’re a guest and your host doesn’t set a clear lights-out policy, or if you feel awkward asserting your sleep schedule ahead of time, a good rule of thumb is 9 a.m. After a quiet night in, no guest or host should take umbrage at being awoken at that respectable hour.

That said, all bets are off if we’ve gone out the night before. After an evening spent belting picklebacks at the local dive, don’t expect me to gently awaken you with the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The only rolling to be had in that case will be myself, out of bed, to the nearest place where we can shovel hash browns into our respective faces. Rest assured.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.

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