Who was the man who used to have to push up hill a big rock that kept rolling down as fast as he pushed it up? It wasn’t Tantalus, was it. No, it was Sisyphus. Well that’s the man I always feel like after the strain of entertaining an unenthusiastic guest. If I were a fairy godmother and could give a child just one gift I think it would be the gift of enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is such a wonderful leaven. And unenthusiasm is such a terrible curse, both to those who have it and to those, who have to live with him or her. Or even to entertain him.
You’ve all been hosts. Now wouldn’t you find it less of a strain to entertain an enthusiastic, appreciative (mind you I don’t mean gushing) guest for one week than the heavy unenthusiastic defect-seeing guest for one day?
One of these unenthusiastic guests came into my home the other day. We have made a few little improvements and most of our guests are tactful enough to mention them. He said nothing about them. His first remark was “Isn’t it a hot day. The train was terribly uncomfortable.” His second, “That couch cover has faded, hasn’t it?”
We had striven to set the best we could find in the line of eatables because we know he is particular. “I hope that steak is all right?” we asked. (It was a sirloin which all things considered, we thought good enough for any man.) “A”es,” he said, absolutely without enthusiasm or qualification, and then proceeded to tell us what good tenderloin steaks they served at his favorite restaurant.
Later another guest said to him, “Don’t you think that salad dressing is splendid?” (We are rather proud of that particular recipe and were most grateful for her effort to extort a little enthusiasm.) “Yes,” he said, “It’s all right.”
One puts into one’s home and into one’s cuisine the expression of one self. When one entertains a guest one is making him a gift as it were. For him to utter no word of praise or liking is as bad as to take a Christmas gift and make no response. Of course one cannot shod the blessed sunshine of enthusiasm everywhere unless one is born with that beautiful gift, but one can at least try not to be too un-enthusiastic.
— from The Unenthusiatic Guest by Ruth Cameron, 1917