Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A wrinkled party is better than no party

As new homeowners during the past year, we’ve had two kinds of get-togethers: Impromptu, and pre-planned.

As stress-inducing as it is for a perfectionist to think about an impromptu party landing in her hands -- “Wait … no over-analyzing of the perfect menu depending on who’s coming with the perfect amount of snacks, side dishes and accompanying beverages? How scary!” -- these have actually always turned out the best. Or the most fun, anyway.

Thinking back to just last year – our first summer of homeownership – I can still feel the topsy-turvy stomach feelings that would overcome me whenever we were getting ready to have a party, or even just one other couple over for dinner.

My thoughts went a little something like this: “Oh no. The floors are covered in dog-hair tumbleweeds. The kitchen’s got a ton of crap in it, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, the living room needs to be cleaned, the whole house, actually, needs to be straightened up! And we need groceries!”

Thinking back to what I must’ve looked like on a typical pre-party trip to the grocery store, holding every kind of grill meat possible with what I’m sure was a panic-stricken look on my face, I could’ve been standing there working out a calculus problem in my head for all anyone knew. Picking between burgers and steak tips really isn’t that complicated – unless you’re on a perfect party quest. Then it can be paralyzing!

Sometimes, my poor husband would be there, too, allowing these overly analytical thoughts on burgers to be released from the safe space of my mind for all the world to hear.

“How much should we get? Do you think that will be enough? I don’t want to get too much and throw it away. Do you think we need burgers and chicken? What about dessert?”

I would literally become paralyzed by indecision, all in the name of perfection. I just couldn’t handle the pressure!

Pushed to the edge of his own sanity on one such occasion, my husband actually made this shocking declaration in the midst of one of my frenzies: "That's it. No more parties. This is insane." (And he loves having parties. I quickly got a hold of myself ... sort of.)

Which brings me to today.

One year later, while I still teeter on the border of this insanity sometimes (I think based in part on the amount of sleep I had the night before), I’ve been thinking more about it, and wondering, “What the hell am I so worried about?”

The people coming over are always our friends, or family. Are they going to disown me if we don’t have three kinds of chips, and a whole veggie tray instead of just the baby carrots I have in the fridge? Um, I hope not. (And I know not … well, they won’t disown me, anyway.)

Will someone complain of a lack of selection? Maybe, though I doubt it. But even if someone did, perhaps someone else would complain about too much selection … or the use of paper plates when we could wash and reuse. Who knows what I’m not even aware of that I could be worrying about.

The point is, I realized all this craziness I’ve been putting myself through – and my poor, patient husband – was not so much about what I thought would be a nice (or even perfect) party, but what I tried to imagine each and every guest would think was a nice party. I was literally trying to be a mind reader, a mood reader, an appetite reader – trying to please everyone with only my imagination to guide me. Hello? Nut job!

While I’m not necessarily cured of this perfect-people-pleasing-party desire – don’t we all want to make our friends and family happy? – I am toning down the over-thinking, little by little. The more gatherings we host, the easier it gets. And, you know what they say -- Practice makes, err … perfect. Great.


  1. I hear you! I feel the same way most of the time. I get so stressed and am always concerned about having enough food. It's the Italian in us!

  2. Yes! My ultimate fear is running out of food. I. Can't. Even. Imagine!