Not long ago I was a guest at a little week end house party, at which one of the chief indoor diversions was discussing and making fun of the guests of the previous week.
It was amusing, in a way, for our hosts were clever mimics and good satirists. They could pick people to pieces to perfection. One couldn’t help laughing. But even while one laughed a cold shiver ran up one’s back— a shiver of premonition as to what would happen next week when someone else was the audience.
Did Our Grandmothers Do It
I think this habit of talking over guests in front of other guests is one of the unfortunate tricks that people nowadays permit themselves all too often. Perhaps our grandmothers did, too. I don’t know. I prefer to think that they didn’t, and for that matter that our grandchildren won’t. I hope it’s just a passing phase of bad manners
I wish we talked guests over much less, even in the privacy of our immediate families. It is sometimes a temptation when one has carried the guest’s bag to the train and packed up the guest room and drawn a sigh, half of regret at his going, half of relief at the inevitable let down, to serve him up at the next meal for conversational sauce.
Takes the Bloom Off Hospitality
In a way there is nothing wrong about it if one guards one’s tongue and says nothing untruthful or needlessly unkind. And yet I don’t like it. It takes the bloom off the flower of hospitality.
In some families the habit of criticism of outsiders, guests and others, is second nature. The children grow up in this atmosphere of sharp, caustic criticisms, sometimes witty, sometimes not. And I call it a very unhealthy atmosphere. Of course human nature is the most interesting thing in the world. To me at least.
I like books with as much as possible about people and as little as possible about scenery, and comparatively little about events, in them. Also I infinitely prefer portraits to landscapes. And one would lose a big interest out of life if one did not discuss one’s friends and neighbors. But discussion — fair, analytical, kindly discussion — is one thing and the habit of unamiable criticism is quite another. Which do you have in your home?
from Hashing Up the Guests by Ruth Cameron, 1917