“I hope you’re a dog person!” my hostess cooed cheerily as I tried to graciously usher away the five curs who’d all simultaneously swarmed all around me, yapping, weaving between my legs, jumping at my face, attempting to smell me, lick me, and enthusiastically subject me to all sorts of other indecencies.
As it turns out, I am not a dog person—or, more accurately, I’m not an unexpected dog person. Expected dogs can be quite pleasant, provided they’re cultured enough to respect my personal space. But when I’ve just arrived as a guest in someone’s home and the normal, low-level social anxiety of visiting a new place already has me less than my most comfortable, a sudden, high-energy pet ambush does not reduce my discomfort. On the contrary, it intensifies it. Why anyone would think their guests would be charmed by this great burst of attention from canine strangers is beyond me. It may be the classic blindness that often happens with dog owners: So smitten are they with their pets that they cannot picture guests being anything but deliriously delighted to encounter them, even if the mongrels are humping their guests' legs, eating from their guests' plates, licking their guests' mouths, or snarling at them like Cujo.
“I hope you’re a dog person” is the kind of wish best expressed before the encounter—before launching your drooling darlings at unsuspecting visitors. In addition to the common courtesy of preparing folks for the potentially alarming experience, there are other considerations. Some people have allergies. They are not “dog people.” Neither are those who have an extreme fear of dogs. (And no, you won’t cure that fear by assuring your terrified guests, “Oh, don’t worry, he growls threateningly at everyone. He won’t bite, will you, Killer?”.) So it’s a tad presumptuous to plan on everyone being perfectly comfortable with your mutt . . . or any other big surprises.
Suppose I invited you over and, as soon as I opened the door to greet you, bellowed, “I hope you’re a nudist!” or “I hope you like death metal blared at top volume!” or “I hope you like kangaroo steaks!” These are things a host ought to inquire about in advance, don’t you think?
But now, as I ponder it, I find I have not one but two major grievances when it comes to visiting people’s homes (though, given time, I’m certain I'll think of more).
Unless you live in a spa, ashram, or Japan, this business of sweetly demanding that people remove their shoes upon entering your sacred abode is obnoxious. “Hi. So glad you made it. We’re a no-shoes house. Do you mind?” Well, yes, as a matter of damned fact, I do. I accepted your invitation with the assumption that I’d be free to keep all my clothing on. Had I known you’d have other expectations I might have given more thoughtful consideration to my choice of socks.
This is the modern-day equivalent of the weird 1950s/60s practice of covering perfectly good living room furniture with fitted, clear-plastic shrouds, thus preserving each piece in pristine, factory-fresh condition. The idea of protecting things from wear and tear by not using them properly is simply an offense to logic. Floors are for walking upon, seating for sitting upon. And the bait-and-switch of inviting guests over and then telling them you don’t want them walking normally on your floors is not unlike telling them they’re not allowed to use your bathroom.
These are but two of the many, many reasons the Curmudgeon tends to eschew the company of others and, even more so, the homes of others. Unless I feel sure I’ll be able to remain fully dressed and not be ambushed by manic animals, I’d much rather stay home.