I love a good party.
I love to sample nine different finger foods and chat with strangers that have never heard my very best stories. I almost always spill something down the front of my shirt, but that’s okay. I consider this an occasional cover charge for high-energy socializing.
I secretly hope that every social gathering will evolve into an impromptu dance party, the sort that was readily available in middle school, but I was too awkward too enjoy. Boys made me nervous, as did my braces. Back then, I only publicly danced on the inside. But in my parent’s basement, I danced the face off of the Space Jam soundtrack. Those crunchy beats got me going every time, and sometimes my hair got stuck in my braces.
I’m ready to enjoy dance parties today, yesterday, and every day since I got my braces off. I enthusiastically socialize in standing circles where we exchange connection points of similar hobbies, travels, and preferred hair products.
I’m always ready to whip out my invisible hula-hoop, which is the tool I use to dance like a professional.
For the last few years I’ve been working on the role of party hostess, the one who invites people over and refuses any help at all in the kitchen. I’ve done this with mixed results.
The first dinner party I threw was a verifiable disaster. I cared a lot about the perfection of it all: the dishes, the cloth napkins, the well-researched recipes. We invited people over at 6:30. The food was hot and ready at 6:25. No one showed until 7:00.
I became jumpy and ultra-sensitive, concerned about this thing that kept happening to the food. It kept getting cold.
My first party was like being in middle school all over again. It seemed that everyone else had a great time while I remained insecure about details that didn’t matter in hindsight: matching napkins, clean baseboards, and a non-intrusive playlist.
There are some hostesses that host because they love to cook, to try new recipes and serve bacon-wrapped-whatever or cubed fruit on a kabob (I’ve done both of these things, by the way). And I like to cook… in moderation… with an unlimited grocery budget. But mostly I love to feed people. Mostly I love to socialize.
For me, cooking is a vehicle to get to the party, a means to an end. The problem comes when I spend all my time meaning and not enough time ending, not enough sitting, eating, or enjoying, and too much time scurrying, fussing, and running to refill every single water glass. I ruin my own party when I treat it like a three-hour interruption.
My very first mistake at my very first party was that I missed out on my favorite part. I missed out on the socializing because I cared too much about the perfecting. I confused hostessing as a means of marketing the DiFelice brand.
I’m reading this phenomenal book called Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequest. She writes of hosting:
“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home.”
…that place where it is okay to dance loudly, to be your full middle-school self, to sit at a table in a chair allocated specifically to you. After all the means and meaning and meant, it’s the place to end, to be.
I want my house to feel like home to more people than just me. That’s why I host.
In the three years since my disastrous dinner party, I’ve learned (am still learning) to focus more on home and less on perfection; to cut myself off from the kitchen after awhile; to serve, when necessary, on paper plates and paper napkins and occasionally out of pizza boxes. All of those things at the end of the day are just means, even when I intend to provide the most high-quality kind.
We are having friends over tomorrow night, current friends, future friends, and friends-of-friends who are all circling this military life around us and with us. Military people, our people, are especially gifted at cultivating an appropriately flexible definition of home.
I’m calling the event the “Fingers Crossed Danceparty Party,” because it’s a dinner party that I’m hoping (fingers crossed) will evolve into a dance party.
I’ve planned some, but not a lot.
I bought a box of glow sticks, which seemed like a good start.
I intend to rent extra chairs. Mike’s retreiving the sombrero out of storage. And I’ve asked guests to wear their sunglasses indoors.
The rest is in progress, a to-do list of necessary means.
I can’t wait to get to the end, because I love a good party.
I love extending this idea, this definition, this hub of a home.
I’m doing what I can as the hostess, which means I’m readying my invisible hula hoop and hoping my guests do the same.