My neighbor puts me to shame.
One minute she’s taking her laundry off the line and supervising her kids as they do their homework, the next she’s entertaining guests.
At least once a week, the smell of grilled food and the sounds of happy people come wafting from her kitchen or over the fence from her back yard.
The woman can plan a dinner party in two hours. She’s not daunted by a less-than-perfect house or what to cook. She just does it.
I love this neighbor (she invites us over often.) But I also hate her for being such a relaxed, gifted entertainer.
I am not a gifted entertainer. I am a neurotic entertainer.
But there’s nothing nicer than looking forward to a meal at someone else’s house for a change. It breaks up the parental monotony. Knowing that, isn’t it only fair that I should extend that invitation now and then as well?
It’s not that I don’t enjoy having people over for a meal when I actually get around to do-ing it — the effects of human connection are better than Prozac — but it’s the thinking about doing it that puts me off.
It’s so easy to find excuses not to. I can think of four excuses right now, off the top of my head:
1. My house is a disaster:
This a gross exaggeration, but very effective when it comes to stopping the urge to entertain in its tracks. (Incidentally, the motivation to make your house the envy of millions that inviting people over brings, is equally effective. Never does my house look better than just before we have guests and sometimes even a few days after.)
2. I’m not a relaxed cook:
Cooking with people in my kitchen gives me hives. Some people can make gravy and salad dressing while chatting with guests and scolding children. Others cannot. Dressing a salad, or even slicing bread, takes my full, focused attention, lest I forget what I’m doing and dress the dog and maim the cat by accident.
3. I can’t think of what to serve:
Okay, I know this is really lame, but I can work myself into a tizzy worrying about what people like to eat. Do they eat fish? Are they vegetarian? Did they have chili for lunch? Do they drink? Will they judge me if I do, a lot?
4. I can’t decide who to invite:
Should I invite the people I really like, even though our kids aren’t friends, or the ones I probably wouldn’t even know if it weren’t for the kids. And if I invite this couple, does it mean I have to invite that other couple too. Do those couples even like each other? Should I just invite everyone who’s ever invited us and get it over with? You see how a woman can over- think herself into paralysis here?
To counter with these four excuses, I only have one solution:
What has worked well for us is inviting people over for for brunch or Sunday lunch. I love to make pancakes, fruit salad and quiche, and Ian, my Brit husband who made it to 40 as a self-sufficient bachelor before I enlisted him, makes a mean Sunday roast –chicken, pork or lamb– complete with roasted potatoes and gravy. And daytime meals are much more kid friendly.
And you? Are you too lame to entertain, like me, or is your house, like my neighbors’, party central?