Last weekend my husband asked some of our daughter’s friends to leave the house, a request to which Clementine took great exception. I think her exact words were so rude. And granted, maybe my husband’s choice of words (“All of you, get the !@#$ out of my house!”) were not the most poetic, or the most politic (he probably shouldn’t count on receiving his ambassadorship any time soon), but I wouldn’t call it rude, necessarily. More like forceful. Determined. Unwavering. And, in the end, necessary, as shown by the fact that even after that statement it took another three hours to get our couch back.
And this was after it had already been occupied for the previous twelve.
Clementine, however, still didn’t understand. Her view was that since during the majority of the previous twelve hours her father had been asleep, the timer on couch squatting hadn’t really started until he had woken up that morning. Or rather, since her guests had arrived shortly before her father went to bed the night before, the timer had started, but then had been put on pause. (I have to admit I was kind of rooting for this argument to work—if it did it would have all sorts of implications for the hotel industry.) My husband’s view was much less nuanced. “Naw,” he said. “It’s time for your friends to go.” And with an offended huff (and another hour or so of nagging), they went.
I can see how Clementine might have gotten the mistaken impression that her father was being unnecessarily harsh. In a normal situation, telling people to “get the !@#$ out” of your house would almost always be considered rude. However, what she needed to understand is that this was the farthest thing from a normal situation. This wasn’t a friendly visit, this was an occupation, an invasion, really, and as such needed to be handled in a different way.
Think about it this way: when you see the very first cockroach scurry across your kitchen floor do you think, “Well, it was only the one. Maybe he was just passing through?” No, at the first sign of an infestation you get out the big guns, or rather, the big can of Raid. And it is the same with couch squatters: at the first sign of an infestation, you pull out the big (or at least bad) words.
Of course, even after that explanation Clementine still didn’t see it as an infestation. She still saw it as a friendly visit. A long, drawn-out, noisy, messy visit. But then again, Clementine doesn’t pay the rent. Or the Netflix bill. Or buy the groceries. And she most definitely has never had to flip over a couch in the middle of the night to make someone understand that, no, they really weren’t welcome to crash in your living room any longer.
In other words, Clementine has never been in college.
Something tells me that sometime in the next four years or so Clementine will become intimately familiar with the kind of scenarios that make telling people to “get the !@# out of my house,” seem like the most amicable solution. She will come to realize that there are times when social cues and subtly just doesn’t work, and that waking up in the morning to see the same people who were partying in your living room the night before gets old after the twentieth or thirtieth time it happens.
When that day comes Clementine will be grateful for the memory of her father telling her friends to “get the !@#$ out” of his house. In fact, she might be so grateful that she ends up quoting him directly.
Right down to the very last !@#$.