Sometimes when I can’t sleep I lull myself into la-la land by pretending that I am going to give a dinner party. Instead of counting sheep I begin to plan my candle light soiree, from the menu to the guest list to making sure I remember to clean the bathroom and put out special seashell-shaped bars of guest soap that I haven’t seen sold in stores since 1985. I am not sure why this particular mental practice is so slumber inducing, but it is and I’m often out like a light before I get to the entrée and almost always before I finish mentally writing out my invitations.
The odd part is that I am not a hostess. Apparently my subconscious would like it if I were a hostess but in reality I have a fourteen karat freak out if anyone comes over to whom I haven’t given birth. I like to think that I want to have a Waltons-esque Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I far prefer curling up on the couch with the cheese, crackers and wine within easy reach while I watch reruns of John Boy and company eating turkey and trimming the Christmas tree and battling their latest episodic crisis that somehow always got resolved before the final commercial (yet another example of how television screwed up an entire generation–how do you ever get past thinking your problems will be solved before the ten o’clock news?)
I come by this particular brand of weirdness honestly. My dad loved to entertain and my mother shunned it; this resulted in a general tension on holidays that boiled down to the grandmothers coming for dinner as our “guests”. Tales of friends who had upwards of twenty relatives and friends coming over for holiday dinners filled me with awe and yes, envy. What would it be like to have people who weren’t related to you come over and sit at the dinner table with you? I simply couldn’t imagine it.
Then I went and married someone who was even less interested in entertaining than my mother. (I’ve heard that men always marry their mothers. This is not completely true. Everyone marries their mother, psychologically speaking, which in itself makes for some mighty strange mental twists that are far too complicated for me to contemplate while trying to fall asleep.) During the early years of our marriage, when I still thought I was supposed to have people over even if I didn’t want to, we had a few weak attempts at entertaining where we invited people over but then typically issued a blanket cancellation the day before said dinner or get together. Then we stayed home and ate whatever goodies I’d prepared for our guests who we had uninvited, a perfect breeding ground for overindulgence as well as advanced isolationism if ever I heard of one. I always felt a twinge of guilt for cancelling but in my defense, I more often than not heard a tone of pure relief when I called my friends to tell them dinner was off. Who can blame them? An evening with a couple of misanthropic hermits has never been high on anyone’s bucket list.
After the kids were born I tried, I really did. We had birthday parties and they had their friends over and eventually things got a little bit better but I still liked meeting people in restaurants instead of having them over. Restaurant meetings held the option of early release if things got boring and the added attraction that I didn’t need to cook or clean up. Life would be far simpler if there was some kind of law that said that people could only meet in public places like bars, libraries and train stations.
So with such a lackluster history in the entertaining department, why do I still think about doing it? Is there some part of me that secretly longs to have people over or am I simply an artiste at driving myself crazy before I fall asleep every night? I suspect that it is the time of year, the holidays-are-approaching-and-if-you-don’t-have-at-least-one-dinner-party-before-January-first-you-are-an-incredible-loser time of year, that has me toying with a fake guest list and contemplating crab dip or homemade cheese puffs.
Who am I kidding? Come New Year’s Eve, I know I’ll be sitting on the couch sharing Cheetos with my dog and watching my favorite sappy romantic movies. So if you get an invitation from me over the next two months, do us both a favor and recognize it for what it is: a temporary lack of sanity fueled by the latest issue of Good Housekeeping and ignore it. That will save me from making up an excuse of why we can’t get together and you the pain of contemplating an evening of Cheetos and Love Story. Win-win, I’d say.