A Belgian submission for Drunk Furniture
Wednesday. It's last minute shit-we-forgot-the-geography-project night ("no, maybe don't include the Wikipedia cannabis page") and last minute Halloween biscuit night ("NO I WILL NOT REROLL THE ARSEING DALEKS THEY ARE FINE JESUS WHO PUT THE OVEN ON GRILL WELL THESE CAN GO STRAIGHT IN THE BIN??") and I am still in total neck spasm and keep having to stop writing to lie on the floor. On the upside, I didn't have to wear tights and uncomfortable shoes or speak to strangers with insufficient warning. I spent about ninety minutes in blissed out staring at the wall this morning. Then I ate a packet of Cadbury's Halloween novelty biscuits. A winner, overall.
Ok, tonight, perhaps you can help me out with a problem, which is something I feel I need to learn for the forthcoming decade.
My question is this: how do you get good at hospitality? By which I mean, how do you carry off having people round for food or to stay or whatever? I am shit at this - truly, so bad - and it's clearly a massive problem, because (i) I feel inadequate (ii) my children never see people other than family members at weekends so they will end up deeply flawed humans like me (iii) this is not how adults behave (iv) it's embarrassing (v) only 4 people will come to my funeral.
I mean, I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that I'm fairly introverted (see above: bliss of staring at wall). But I do like people (no, honestly) and I would like to be able to invite them into my house without dying of awkward. I rate myself on the hospitality scale somewhere around the deeply depressed lady who lodged me and my friend Kate on our gap year in Florence feeding us stewed radicchio in baleful silence. I don't have an incontinent cat and my house does have a lavatory door, but that's probably my only advantage over her.
I know the problem is that I make it all about me due to idiotic anxiety. I do know it is not about me. That is the whole point of hospitality. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. IT IS ABOUT YOUR GUESTS. But how does one achieve this zen-like state of welcoming the other? I have been to the homes of people who are considerably younger than me who can manage this. How? What is the secret? Have you cracked it? Does it come so naturally you don't even know how you do it?
- Simply having people round for their dinner: how does one approach this? Why do I make such a meal (ha ha) of it? The last time, I provoked a fight about GM crops, about which I didn't know I even had an opinion. It's not the food - I'm confident I could make something edible (not nice, but edible), but I would then hover and make anxious eyes rather than relaxing and pouring wine and laughing. Can you get better at it? How?
- If you know very disparate groups of people should you throw them together? How much effort do you then need to make if they are not gelling?
- Where should the line be drawn between not being the person who forces you to have the fourth pint of wine and seconds of pudding and being me, ie. too shy to offer anyone anything in case they feel obliged to accept, leading to feelings of deprivation and joylessness?
- What if all the glasses come out of your dishwasher looking as if they are filthy so you are ashamed to have people round and your children insist on putting them in the dishwasher when you are not looking?
- Where is the line between charmingly mismatched and 'student house disgusting stolen canteen plates'?
- How do you not get unmanageably sad when you invite people and they don't come?
- If they do come, HOW DO YOU MAKE THEM GO HOME?
These are all variants on the same question, I realise. Also, I sound a bit like a horrible man I met in group therapy who used to dissect every minute social encounter out loud in precisely this unhelpful fashion. HELP ME UNDERSTAND YOUR WAYS, people who are sociable. Or recommend a book I can read about it, fellow introverts.
NB: I am not planning a birthday party or anything, this is just a necessary life lesson.
Shit, M has just shown me this reconstruction of Tutankhamun and now NO ONE WILL EVER SLEEP AGAIN.