Sunday, 29 March 2009

Entertaining the painfully awkward way

I feel I have a lot to say at the moment. Seriously, I could DROWN you all in humourless introspection, but (thankfully) it is a little tangled and keeps getting overtaken by:

1. People getting in the way, usually bodily, between me and the laptop. Small ones with long pointy fingers and endless demands and large ones with technical and medical and administrative questions, tortoises to find and spreadsheets to adjust. Violet did not get in the way, but I did want to spend all my time sucking her essence out, vampire style, leaving only an empty husk to send home to London, so I could keep her and take her out and stroke her as necessary. That came out far more disturbing that it sounded in my head, where it seemed like a perfectly reasonable proposition.

2. My failure to deal with the proofs of The Tedium Files - The Revenge (newer readers: this is not an actual book, but a Eurotedious looseleaf work of endless references and tables. It has sold a staggering ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN copies to date, allowing my Euromaster to bust out and buy himself a new C&A suit), due, um, tomorrow I think. Untouched. In one of those free bags from a WTF magazine. Not even sure which one of the thirty five bags that lie around the house filled with biscuit debris and expired tram passes and unpaid bills. Eh. (imagine that said Greek style with a fatalistic shrug).

3. The guilt and need for subterfuge when blogging after my recent designation by the CFO as an "addict". I keep having to find plausible activities that could take me into the room where the laptop lives, an enterprise complicated by the fact that apart from the computer it only contains the tortoise house, the crayons and cutting and sticking cupboard, and the piano.

"I was just, er, playing the piano. Really really quietly".

"Yeah, just a bit of colouring in. Look! I barely went outside the lines at all on this, um, blob?!"

"I've been observing the torts. Do you not think number 4 is looking a little off colour? Oh? That's not number 4? It's a piece of bark? Sorry".

So for now, and for the greater good of all, I will limit myself to one piece of Eyeore-esque musing tonight.

Does anyone else do this Thing?

The Thing is as follows. Let's have a picture first to break things up a bit.

A Betty's Fondant Fancy Celebration Cake (yes, please, Betty's a free one would be very welcome indeed):

Another? Ok.

Some baby naked mole rats:

Well you did ask.

Moving on.

I am a shit host. A REALLY bad host. And it's not because I don't care, or I believe my visitors should take me as they find me (because then they would all get toxoplasmosis or a tapeworm or something, and even I, hospitality retard that I am, know that isn't nice). I'm good before they arrive - I can change the bed and buy flowers and provide towels and ensure that the dog hasn't done anything unspeakable under the spare bed. I am gleeful that they are coming (except OCD brother in law). But when they arrive, I become weirdly, paralysingly shy and anxious and unable to act in anything remotely like a normal, welcoming manner.

Things I cannot do:

- Suggest - or even think of - pleasant activities for us all to do with the Unfortunate Guests. Everything I can think of seems unutterably lame, or doomed to failure (what with entirely incompatible interests of a surly martial arts Pokémonomaniac, a mildly obsessive compulsive secretive dancing biscuit fan, the monosyllabic CFO, me - consumed with anxiety - and the Unfortunate Guests). I don't even want to suggest things in case they think it's a terrible idea but feel compelled to come anyway. I am hunched with embarassment and awkwardness if I have to proffer something as innocuous as a walk in the park. 'Nooo!' say the voices 'That's a stupid idea! They'll HATE it. Shut up'.

- Offer food and drink appropriately. Ok, we have established over the past 11 months that I am pretty weird around food, but when people are staying I seem to project my neuroses onto them in an unhelpful fashion. Things I can do: make cups of tea. Buy food and place it on the table in a pleasing configuration. Things I cannot do: ask people what they would like and make it for them. Sit and share meals without agonising about whether it is ok, whether they are eating to be polite and whether it would be pushy and unbearable to offer them dessert. BE NORMAL. I am just so lumpenly, cringingly awkward. Sometimes I just have to leave the room because I can feel my own loomingly unnatural presence becoming unbearable. I am a freak.

- Accept that if people have come to see me, they must to some degree want to actually see, or spend time with me. Instead, I sort of mutely offer my children forward as a nicer, more entertaining, decorative version of me. And now, of course, I can mutely offer the weepette too. Look! I have nothing to offer you, but here are some moderately entertaining small children and a very strokable dog.

- ACT NORMALLY. I become this twitching, eye popping mass of self-doubt that lurks in the corner of the room scuffing one shoe against the other and elaborately over-thinking the simplest of things.

I think I always hoped this would come with age, and I would mature into one of those people it's a pleasure to come and stay with, where you can be entertained or not, fed or not, and looked after in a low key but lovely fashion. It has become apparent that I am not. Noone will ever want to come and visit me, because I will just loom, google eyed at them, and blush and make strangled noises as I try to ask if they want a biscuit.

That is all. I am not going to beg you to tell me I am normal, because I know I'm not. Just, if I invite you to stay, you might want to consider other options.


Helen Brocklebank said...

Will bring own laptop then we can disappear into laptop room on pretext of doing 'work' then sit mutely with tea and contact The Internets. All an awkward host needs is an awkward guest. Fair exchange no robbery

Liberty London Girl said...

That's fine. I will come to stay, bringing nutritious & delicious food. We will then play on the internets in blissful silence on our respective laptops - ah, I see Mrs T is on same wavelength. Excellent. LLGxx

Maternal Tales said...

Hilarious. Ok, so I won't come and visit, but I'd love to be a fly on the wall...

Emma Burns said...

Ah, this is where the novel comes in handy! You go to the laptop because you are WRITING. You have a word count to show at the end of the day! You include all bloggery in that word count because of course it *IS* writing, it is clearing the air, or priming the pump, or whatever you like to call it.

See, that's 61 words right there. That's the way to deal with spreadsheet oriented people. Show them numbers as results. Aha!

Cassandra said...

Am with Mrs T and LLG. I feel that am not only awkward host but also crap guest. If I could strike a reading/internets addiction in silence deal, then that would be BRILLIANT. If you're not normal then neither are we.....oh.

Mr Farty said...

Yup, all sounds totally normal. Who wants to socialise when you've got t'internet?

katyboo1 said...

Will you have cake? Certainly you will. Will you have access to hot beverages and kettles? Certainly you will. Will you allow me to roam about the house singing to the tortoises because I can't sleep? Probably. Therefore you will be a good hostess. As with the others I will bring own laptop so we don't have to bitch fight over one between us. All is good. You will be excellent host. Where is my invitation...

Anonymous said...

My God, we'd make a right pair. I have exactly the same thoughts, but they manifest themselves as endless, cannot-insert-a-credit-card-in-the-gap waffle. I get acute verbal diarrhoea. Sympathies.

Pochyemu said...

See, when I go to visit people I never think, "Oh, I want to go see this or do this or let's go out and PAR-TAY!"...basically, I like to do things like lounge around their house and read and eat and if I am invited to stay, I will expect nothing and need nothing and then we will all be terribly happy and comfortable!

Pochyemu said...

oh, and I so fucking love it that you know Sir Mr. Gorey that I just <3heart<3 you even MORE!

redfox said...

Oh my god. I am a neurotic useless host in PRECISELY the many ways you describe. I have a fantasy that if someday I have a home enormous enough or somehow otherwise laid out perfectly, I could have people come to stay and we would all be led by the space to find it perfectly natural and relaxed to let one another amble about in amiable entertaining-ourselves ways. This is a thing that actually happens sometimes, right? I feel that I have experienced it as a guest and found it perfect. And the reason I am unable to provide it to others is the physical configuration of our home, not my utterly hopeless inability either to just fucking let people alone or to suggest nice things for us to do or eat. Christ.

GingerB said...

I think you have to trust the people who like you enough to come around, they probably wouldn't show up if the experience was so awful.

Tortoises only add to the experience, I am certain.

I second the vote of approval for use of Gorey's work in a post - see, proof of your superior intellect and humor, and proof you are not as useless as you suspect.

monk said...

I make sure to invite at least 3 people at a time because I am socially backward.

I then throw cake and maps in their faces and scarper. And then complain when they leave.

I am a delight

karen said...

Yay! I'm not alone in my Kitchen Performance Anxiety! Let's go out to eat :)

tragicanon said...

i am the worst ever guest - i suffer from crippling anxiety the minute i step out my own front door, still ask my bf "may i go to the loo?" if his flatmates are around and it's been nigh on two years since i first slept over.. have an inability to let someone pack their own dishwasher, even though i'm jinxed when it comes to expensive wedding present dinner plates, you know the kind you put out to impress the guests.. and as compensation for the fact i usually have nothing to say to my hosts i always end up talking in a loud, booming 'thoroughly-enjoying-myself' way that cuts through the need for two way conversation and makes my hosts more nervous than me.. which is quite a feat.. really

Elsie said...

You are neither goggle- nor google- eyed (from one who is both and who has seen your lovely pictures). I think Maggie's suggestion ( i was not blogging/tweeting but writing) is excellent.

Mutter said...

Are you an Internets addict? Is the Pope Catholic? Do big brown bears s**t in the woods? Does the CFO have a degree in stating the obvious?
And so what if you are? There are worse things to be addicted to after all, crack, gin......
I won't be coming to stay for I can imagine nothing worse than all those "good guests" descending just after you've expressed your awkwardness about playing hostess with the mostess. However, you could always have the name of a good "pension" to hand for those that do, with internet access in each room, of course. From one addict to another.
WV: golog which I of course thought said goblog.

mothership said...

It is very strange that you used that particular illustration today because for some time I have been calling you Neville in my head as in "N is for Neville who died of ennui' from the Gashleycrumb tinies.

Please will you invite me to stay so that I can sit in your tortoise room with tea and cake, uninterrupted by my own family. You will be able to escape yours and do some colouring/silent piano playing because you will be obliged to look after me but I will not actually speak to you unless it is via twitter or through comments, promise.

Unknown said...

Wow!Hope everything will be fine..;D
Ow..look at those little anyway..=)

screamish said...

poor darl...I am in EXACTLY the same zone as you this morning.

I had a pretty harrowing Saturday night amongst PEOPLE and shamed myself in cringeworthy ways....first thing i thought about when i woke up this morning...hate that feeling but in my case I was a guest.

just pretend to be normal, it used to work for me. even knowing you're not... then it almost becomes true.

HAAAAAAAAA!! it cvant be true, my secret codeword is


Bath bun said...

Oh I feel for you - I always hide behind the kids when we have visitors but not in so much of an "aren't they lovely" kind of way, but more, "look I have to dash around after them and so why don't you just look after yourselves" way. The Fat Rascal is amazed by how I suddenly want to take over parental duties I'm normally too lazy to do. I hate staying with other people too, particularly family, so thanks for the Betty's picture, knowing I will be in reach of a fondant fancy gives a silver lining to my looming cloud.

Jessica K said...

I third my approval of the use of Gorey. A steady diet of Gorey and Addams keeps one sane.
Not only do I get the same performance anxiety as you, but I get wierdly anti-social and hide in the bathroom when we have guests.

Waffle said...

Mrs T - I am sure we could manage that. I will still get a little shy.

LLG - oh, if you bring delicious food I will cry with joy. Do come.

MT - very wise.

Maggie - but is that allowed? Is it polite?

Cassandra - best not to dwell on it, I fear..

Mr F - we are sad husks of people, no?

Katyboo - I rather like the idea of you drifting around singing to the tortoises at night.

HFF - we must only be allowed to meet on neutral territory. Claridges would be perfect.

Pochyemu - yes, I think I actually am the doubtful guest, except host fashion. A dark brooding presence making everyone feel uncomfortable.

redfox - I can't even blame the house. I think I need a similar excuse..

GingerB - well, the tortoises are a definite plus.

Monk - oh, yes, then they can entertain each other while I poke packets of crisps in their direction bashfully.

Elsie - I'm just a bit backwards; well, very.

Karenmc - yes, let's. I'm a shitty cook anyway.

tragicanon - is this THE best friend?

Wife in HK - I think he was trying to stage an intervention, but I ended up sneaking off to blog about it. He is, of course, entirely right.

mothership - what a great arrangement. We can email each other from across the table, and maybe eventually I will pluck up the courage to shyly offer you a biscuit.

Solo - very sweet. Ugly, but sweet.

Screamish - word verification knows us too well. Damn.

Bath bun - oh yes. You will at least have that to console you. With easter motifs too! My sister next. She is used to being totally neglected thankfully.

Jessica - Fingers is a more gracious host than I am. He is five.

Cassandra said...

Have you seen what's bloody well happening at the castle tonight on the fecking guest front, btw?!??!?!?

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Darling JW - We (I speak for all of your loyal readership in a megalomaniacal kind of way), are all senselessly filled with many of the same neuroses as your good and gorgeous (not googly) self! That's why we return again and again... I think it's the faux gregarious, everything's always perfect, folk that really make me cringe in life...

Your visitors come to see you. You don't have to be Camp Host in a Hi-de-Hi sort of way, and you're not a B & B - Guests (other than the OCD BI) are adults, they can fend for themselves - Just let them and open your kitchen to them, if it's easier - All rabid bits of advice, I hope you don't mind - I don't mean to be haranguing, I'd just like you to feel a little happier about the wonderful thing that you really are, JW - Is that vomit-enducing enough? No? Cue cute pic of nyekkid mole rodent... x

Welsh Girl said...

It turns out that I could survive the Velociraptor / Bunk Bed scenario for 1 minute 25 seconds, which is a lot longer than I can manage guests. I spent my entire time panicking that they are not being entertained enough and then imagine them spending their journey home wondering why on earth they bothered as they have just had the most excruciating weekend EVER.

I wish I knew the secret of being a good hostess. If my house buying adventure comes through I will have three spare bedrooms and will be obliged to fill them. Let the torture commence...

The Spicers said...

I'm a similarly awkward hostess, especially as I hate to cook and can't be bothered to attend to guests' every need by rushing around refilling drinks, etc. I can manage a meal, but overnight guests, forget it!

Mrs Jones said...

We never have guests over (ever!) and only go and stay with the aged parents-in-law. No-one ever invites us anywhere (ever!). Everyone I know is perfectly content with this. Mind you, I have no friends....

halfwaythere said...

Much as I love the idea of having people to stay, after a few hours (regardless of how much I love them and their company) I have an overwhelming urge to retire to my bedroom, close the door and read a book. As this is not generally considered polite, I instead barricade myself in the bathroom which leads to speculation about my digestive health. Less embarrassing than having to admit I just wanted some time out though.

I once went to stay with someone who didn't feed me for three days. It was a strange visit.

As for your own visitors, surely just provide them with a jar of this (ARGH! OMGWTF!!!1!1! etc) and a spoon and you will win Hostess with the Mostest Award 2009 hands down...

Mya said...

Don't worry Jaywalker, I'm a freak too and very awkward and full of self doubt...what I tend to do (I'm not recommending this as a coping strategy in these difficult situations, by the way )is get really tanked and explain in detail why I think they should all just fuck off. But they usually just ignore me, which makes me feel worse. What's a crap hostess to do?
Come and stay with me if you like -seeing me in action should cheer you up!

Mya x

Anxious said...

I'm a fairly laid-back guest. I'll just fit in with whatever's going on, make tea, help with cooking and generally just sit or stand around chatting.

I actually dislike being waited on by my friends - that feels weird to me. If I'm a close enough friend to stay over, I will usually be comfortable enough to get stuff for myself and certainly won't just sit there waiting to be "entertained".

Jane Henry said...

I actually love entertaining and so does my other half. But we have a tendency to imbibe too much red wine and annoy people, so that doesn't always work...OTOH I also think if people come to see you, the come to see YOU, and have to accept you warts and all. So if they don't like what they see they can shove off, and if they do you have nothing to worry about. In my case anyone who comes into my house and turns their nose up at the offer of a bottle of red, has probably made themselves the most unwelcome house guest ever. But then if they do that, I know we're not going to get along (-:

Grit said...

dig is not a sociable persona at all. he immediately disappears into the office and won't come out. this is humiliating. it is a family trait. his brother shut himself in an attic for 35 years until we bastards sold the house around him. then his nephew deliberately locked himself in the toilet on his mother's graduation day so he wouldn't have to go to the ceremony. the rest of the family tried to coax him out. me and dig had 2 hours to kill while that happened. sadly, that is how our triplets were conceived, but don't tell dig's family that. they thought we were making tea.

Anonymous said...

I only survived 40 seconds.

I like guests, but not for too long. I have never felt an adequate host; I tend to overfeed and overwater guests because I am paranoid they will go home hungry and bitch about me. I also prefer them not to stay too long as I run out of things to say/do/feed them and want to be on my own again. As a guest, I am happy to sit drinking tea, eating cake and reading sunday papers, or whatever. I find being dragged around fun entertaining things too much like hard work. I'm a bit boring really.

Ali said...

People that visit me know they must fend for themselves when it comes to beverages etc. I am useless. I have been known to drive house guests away because my anxiety is interpreted as distaste.

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