It’s taken me nearly 40 years, but it seems that I might be growing up a bit.
Let me tell you a story about how I get when it’s time to entertain people in my home:
I spend an inordinate amount of time deciding whether or not my home is good enough to even think about inviting people over. Once I convince myself that yes, my home is good enough (in my warped mind), I procrastinate as long as possible in setting a date and inviting guests. When I can put it off no longer, I bite the bullet and invite people. This begins the dramatic part of the story, where I obsess about every detail … the food, the drink, the music, the serving ware, the weather according to the Farmer’s Almanac. And then I start cleaning. And by cleaning, I don’t mean picking up stray socks and sweeping the crumbs. I mean the kind of cleaning that makes spouses and kids run, for fear of your crazy and the possibility of being asked to scrub the tile grout with a toothbrush.
And this is why, for the most part, we don’t entertain a lot. I stress myself (and everyone around me) out. You would think the answer to this would be to host spontaneous, last-minute gatherings instead. But not having adequate time to stress out about entertaining just stresses me out even more.
I kept telling myself that we would be better prepared to entertain friends when x, y or z happened. When the kids are older, when we have more money, when the weather is better, when our house is bigger, when our furniture is nicer. The problem with this thinking, though, it that there will always be a better time in your mind. In the meantime, countless memories are not being made and precious friendships are not being strengthened, all because you’re too busy with your own hangups.
Last weekend we entertained. I wish I could say that I’m cured of my hosting hangups, but I still have some ridiculous issues. I procrastinated setting a date. I obsessed about details. I had Mike string up an entire set of lights for the back porch … and then had him take them down and replace them with different ones. The first set was “too blue.” I spent entirely too much time thinking about which beer to buy and how many ounces of cheese the average guest would consume. I cleaned like a mad woman. I polished our toaster.
And then …
On the evening before, sweaty and tired from an afternoon at the pumpkin patch, one of my dear friends showed up ready to party. She had the date wrong. She had a sitter, she looked gorgeous, she was here. The old me would’ve chatted with her in my driveway, laughed about the mix-up, and sent her away to enjoy her kid-free evening. Instead, I asked her inside – dirty dishes, unswept floors and all. I chucked my to-do list for the evening and visited instead.
The evening of the party, with the deck cleaned off, adorned with pumpkins and twinkling (but not too blue) lights … it started to pour. And it never really stopped. The old me would’ve been upset. The old me would’ve let it ruin her evening. The whole reason I wanted to have this party in the first place was to enjoy the deck. Instead I shrugged my shoulders and added a few more chairs to the table.
The deck on every other night except for the one in which I invite people over.
Lest you think that you never, ever want to have me over now, rest assured that I don’t hold anyone else to these impossible standards. When you invite me over, I don’t inspect your baseboards or run my fingers along your shelves to check for dust. I certainly don’t expect a polished toaster. (Because seriously? That’s a little crazy.) Instead, I’m focused on you. I’m simply thrilled to be out, glad to have a reason to put some lipstick on and chat with friends. And isn’t that it’s really all about?
I so want to be that person that effortlessly hosts, that doesn’t worry about the details, that doesn’t care whether she has 10 minutes or 10 weeks to prepare. Slowly, I think I can get there. I have old habits that don’t break easily, but I’m willing them to. Because in those hours last weekend when my home was filled with friends, I could’ve cared less about the walls around them. And I’m pretty sure they could’ve cared less about my polished toaster.
I might be growing up, but I think I want to party more.