Today’s lesson, boys and girls, is on the subject of houseguesting and is subtitled “Which Is Worse, Being the Guest or Being the Host?”

Before I begin, I would like to note that many scholarly works have been written on the subject, including, of course, Please, Can’t We Just Stay Home This Summer? and Oh No, Not the Harringtons … Again!

These texts examine in detail the politics of houseguesting, exploring such thorny issues as washing dishes, buying groceries, and watching TV. But due to time constraints, we’re going to focus on the big ­picture. So, I would like you now to open your book, How Can I Love You if You Drive Me So Crazy? A Primer for Hosts and Guests.

I like this book because it provides practical strategies and, in clear, understandable language, presents the reasoning behind those strategies. Take, for example, some of the chapter titles, which all begin with the word why to indicate the pragmatic and useful nature of the book:

“Why You Should Stay in a Hotel.”

“Why You Should Never Visit Your Relatives.”

“Why You Should Keep Your Mouth Shut When Someone Asks, ‘What Do You Want to Do for Dinner?’?’’

“Why It Is Important to Pack Pain Medication — It Isn’t Just for Broken Bones.”

“Why Tolerance Is Your Enemy.” (See related chapter: “Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity.”)

“Why the Worst Thing You Can Do Is to Tell the Truth.”

“Why the Second Worst Thing You Can Do Is to Tell a White Lie Intended to Avoid Telling the Truth.”

“Why You Need to Pick Your Friends Very, Very Carefully.”

Okay. Do you have your book open to the introduction? Let’s read:

“Being a guest and a host are both hard work. As we all know, it isn’t easy hosting out-of-towners. They dirty your dishes and don’t help you clean them. They want to visit places that you have forgotten still exist in your city, such as the Lincoln Memorial or Niagara Falls or the Golden Gate Bridge. If they come from the Midwest to the East Coast, they complain that ‘the prices are ridiculous here.’ If they come from the East Coast to the Midwest, they are aghast that not all grocery stores have fresh arugula.

“Guests break things that are meaningful to you, and then you have to smile and say, ‘Oh, that? Don’t give it another thought. We’ve been married for 23 years now, so it doesn’t really matter that the only present we kept from our wedding is now shattered into tiny pieces on the kitchen floor. Really.’

“It is just as difficult to be a guest. You’re on the host’s turf, which means he or she has the power. He or she may, for example, enjoy insipid reality TV shows (oops, redundant) and, if not the type of person to ask what you might like to watch, will cause you to either suffer through the evening for the sake of not offending your host or leave the room, go upstairs, close the door, and take up yoga to avoid punching your fist through a wall.

“Hosts take you to places they care about, like an herb garden with a special section on different varieties of thyme or a meeting of their knitting group, causing you to smile and say, ‘Gee, you’re right, this is much better than having a few beers and watching my favorite team play an important game on the big screen down at ESPNZone.’

“The point is that a guest and a host can make each other want to do the same thing: scream.”

Okay, class. What did we learn? That’s right, we learned that houseguesting is not a competition. The answer to the original question, “Which Is Worse?” is … both. The host and the guest have it equally bad.

Houseguesting is like making hollandaise sauce from scratch. Usually, something goes wrong and everything gets clumpy and sour. But on the rare occasion when it goes right, the experience is sublime.

And that, gang, is the thing to keep in mind as the summer travel season approaches. Yes, it is not easy to host guests or to be a guest. Yes, staying in someone else’s home can test as much as deepen a relationship. But remember why you’re doing it and you’ll be okay.

And can anyone here tell me why you are doing it? To renew relationships? Okay. To strengthen bonds? Yes, all right.

What? You, in the back, would you speak up? I didn’t hear you.

The reason we put up with the demands of visiting one another is to save money in those years we can’t afford a real vacation and at the same time remind ourselves why we don’t live there?

Class dismissed.

By Jim Shahin