Dear Pepper: A Vacation-Rental Room of One’s Own

Dear Pepper is a monthly advice-column comic by Liana Finck. If you have questions for Pepper about how to act in difficult situations, please direct them to Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Dear Pepper,

I️ need my privacy. I️ need my space, and I️ need my solo time.

I️’ve successfully sidestepped invitations to beach houses and lake houses and destination weddings and travel-with-friends that have been extended to me in my adult life, and, boy, was I glad when I aged out of all-night parties and people wanting to sleep on my floor.

But, recently, I️ was asked to go to a vacation rental in the Catskills.

I could have said no. The problem is, Pepper, that I️ have a husband and a young child. And they both would love to go. And I️ can’t bear to keep them home. And I’m not eccentric enough to face the consequences of sending my family without going myself. I’d lose my friends. I would.

The point of this kind of trip is to have our kids play together without having to painstakingly craft get-togethers around naps and feedings and bedtime—the things that make up our normal weekends. Let me paint a vivid picture for you, though. My entire family (the three of us and the dog) will be sharing a small, un-air-conditioned room for a week. We’ll be sharing a single bathroom with everyone else, and there won’t be a private corner for me to be alone in. Sure, I’ll designate certain times as “work hours,” but people won’t care. They’ll chat with me. Or sit nearby, pointedly gazing at a pitcher of water they can’t reach. And the meals . . . breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all communal. The constant runaround of cooking, shopping, cleaning, all in the name of a good time! And we’ll all be sharing one rental car. And—a single house key. So really there’ll be no escape. Can you believe it? I wish I could describe the nightmares I’ve been having since we were invited. The insomnia. I️ should mention that the friends who invited us have three children. One a newborn (!!!).

The other two, feisty three-year-old twins. And they’re all into boating, hiking, the works. Pepper, should I just suck it up and have a terrible week? Help me get out of it. There has got to be an out.

Actually Quite a Normal Person, Seriously.

Oh, Normal,

Stop worrying so much! I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

Haha, just kidding. As a solitary dog myself, I suspect you very might indeed have a terrible or, at best, a so-so time. Let’s concentrate on making sure it’s a so-so time.

Here’s what you do. Set some basic boundaries before you go. Maybe don’t stay the entire week? Maybe don’t do every meal communally? (One per day seems like enough to me.) Maybe set “alone hours” in advance? Maybe see if you can get another key, another rental car? (You didn’t mention where this vacation spot is. Is it on the moon? Is there somewhere you could drive each day to be alone? Or, even easier—is there somewhere you can walk?)

Once you’ve done a moderate amount of this sort of work, hold your breath and jump. There are two reasons you need to do this. First, it’s an experiment. You’re in for a long span of time as a parent, so you need to figure out what your new travel landscape is—what you’re capable of, what you like. Second, travelling with another family might offer you one great, rare pleasure that you haven’t taken into account: getting to spy on another couple as they go about their marriage and parenting. You get to be a fly on the wall of their house. Or, at least, their vacation rental.

Sincerely yours,


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