Monday, July 02, 2007

My Name Is Nance; I'm Party-Impaired

My hair stylist had a huge pile of baskets sitting on one of her dryer chairs. They were of varying sizes, and I just assumed she'd bought them from someone who'd delivered her order to the shop. We were chatting about summer plans and I asked her what was next on the horizon.

"Oh my God," she said, dramatically. "I can't make a single plan until I get This Party over and done with! It's taking over my life! See those baskets over there? Those are to hold the plates, napkins, and cutlery. I thought it would be nicer than to just have them sitting on the table; plus, it'll make sure they all stay in one place and don't get blown around or fall on the ground. Whaddya think?"

I told her I thought it was a great idea, but had no idea what party she was talking about.

"Oh my God! Mike's daughter's graduation party! It's next week, and all I do when I'm not here doing hair is cook for it, shop for it, plan for it, get stuff for it. Clean for it! You know me, Nance: I am cleaning everything like a maniac. The party is outside, but am I cleaning closets? Yes. Am I cleaning the tops of the kitchen cabinets? Yes. Do I need therapy? Yes! This isn't even my daughter. Hell, it's not even my step-daughter, but I don't want anyone to think I live in a messy house. You know how it is."

Yep. I do know how it is. And that's why I don't "entertain." It turns me into That Maniac. And I hate Her. I "entertain"--my, how I detest that word; it's so impotent when it comes to what one really does when one sets out to do "it"--once a year. I host Christmas Eve at my home for my extended family. It entails approximately 20-25 people, a full buffet, and maniacal cleaning and preparation. It also involves profanity, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and some other things I won't go into here. And let me be completely and totally honest: all of this is entirely self-imposed. My family would come cheerfully and tactfully under any conditions and eat anything I tossed at them. And I would never hear about it. Ever. It's all me.

I think I can trace back the beginning of my profound distaste, though, for entertaining to one Christmas Eve in particular. It was circa 1989-90. Sam was about 2, Jared about 5. This was back when Christmas Eve at my home was a true Open House affair: the guest list was much larger and it was not unusual to have 40-45 people show up, sometimes all at once in our little house. I used to get up extremely early and get started with as many of the preparations as possible while keeping the little boys happy and busy, too. (These days, I look back and wonder how I did it!)

It was about noon on Christmas Eve and I was in the middle of getting the ham into the oven and had settled the boys down at the table with some lunch. Rick was pulling on his Carhartt coveralls and boots, readying to go outdoors. I turned around and said, "What are you doing now?" He looked at me, face open and innocent, and said--I'll never, ever forget it--

"I'm going out to clean out my work van."

I stared at him, open-mouthed, for what seemed like five minutes. I probably asked him to repeat himself. Then, I looked at the kitchen counters covered with cutting boards, crockpots, cans, and food detritus. Finally, I snarked, "Why? Are you going to be giving guided tours of it tonight?" And then I let him have it. No--that's not quite right. Actually That Maniac let him have it. She launched into a full diatribe, replete with lists of things that She had already completed without his help; things that had yet to be done; things that would probably not be done and that were sure to be noticed; and things that he could be doing right now without being told. As diatribes go, it was impressive.

And you know, it wasn't entirely undeserved. I mean, how on earth could he be so incredibly oblivious? And why would he think his work van had to be cleaned out on Christmas Eve when he wasn't going to go back to work for the next two days? And couldn't he see that there were things that were far more immediate that needed to be done? After all, it was his party, too.

We've had the conversation since then. Let me just say that my memory places far more importance upon the incident than his does. I see it as a pivotal event. Him...not so much. But I still abhor entertaining. I don't see the payoff. All that craziness and agonizing and preparation and then I just don't have a good time. I never even eat the food I spend so much time cooking because by the time I get done fussing over it, I'm sick of it. I can't relax and enjoy the party because I have already put so much into it. I'm on edge, making sure that the food is okay, well-supplied, that the ice is fine, that everyone is happy, that things are continuing to function along. AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH. How do normal people do it?
I need to know, at least before December. I can learn almost anything in five months.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: Oh The Agony


  1. Anonymous9:01 PM

    One of the benefits of getting older (and there have to be some, dammit) is that you can happily eliminate things that cause unnecessary frenzy, trauma and general chaos in your life. Because you either: (a) don't give a crap anymore if the house passes the white glove inspection, or (b) lower your standards of entertaining and only invite the kind of people who are laid back and come to ENJOY YOUR COMPANY. Cut yourself some slack. You're older and you have more insurance (Thank you, Towanda & Fried Green Tomatoes).

    Now you know. You have five months to let it sink in and adapt your Christmas Eve celebration accordingly. (The other alternative is to set up a Christmas Eve Fund and put money aside for catering and maid service.)

    [pause while Nance is digesting this and thinking, "No way, I could never do that."]

    All right. You asked what normal people did. But you aren't normal, you are a perfectionist. So... what's on the menu? Am I invited? If you invite me, I'll make you one of these:

  2. I am almost glad that I moved away from my family and all the ado on the holidays! I was ALWAYS the designated host and cook, but now I feel like I can finally exhale!!!

    Goodness forbid I visit them in Ohio on the holidays...alhtough I don't have to play the "hostess with the mostest," they usually have all ingredients on the table...just waiting for me.

  3. Anonymous12:06 AM

    Sorry, forgot to comment on 'Oh, the Agony.' I have seen tons of those 'man/woman-on-the-street' type of spontaneous general knowledge questions, and it is incredible how much ignorance abounds. In answer to your question, 'Do other countries expose their citizens in a similar fashion?' ---Well, I can only vouch for Spain, but they also have that type of thing on TV from time to time. I was watching a Spanish quiz show on my satellite channel the other day and this question came up: What is the location of the Isles of Langerhans? The answer: Aren't they somewhere near the coast of Scotland? (g)

  4. What should I bring when I come?

  5. I've never planned a real party--just a handful of outings with friends to restaurants and stuff (which is pretty awful--who can drive? who's coming? how many should I make the reservation for?). I wanted to plan my brother's grad party, but I wasn't home (and the one surprise I had for the party my mom went ahead and RUINED). But I know that I will be that same Maniac for party planning. Chalk that up as one more reason I'm getting married in city hall and not fussing with the expense and headache of planning a ceremony. I'm sure I'd be a Bridezilla!

  6. Ortizzle--you are NOT that much older than me!! and you're right: I could never do the catering thing. I figure, I do one party a year and it would be ridiculous to have it done for me.

    Tera--See, now YOU are the cause of all the frenetic activity for someone else!! LOL.

    Ortizzle--I'm glad to know that other countries trot out their idiots for public "entertainment" as well. As for the Isles of Langerhans, at least Scotland "sounds" right. Hee hee.

    i.h.--you are not funny.

    jenomena--oh yes, planning the wedding. that was beastly in many ways. i had a particularly long engagement and small budget. those two things can be a difficult combination. but it was the same: I scarcely remember the reception or the food. I remember every detail of the ceremony. But, that IS the most important part. Now, I wish I had just taken the $$ spent on all the falderal and used it for a downpayment on a house or something practical. After all, the objective is to get married! Gosh, I guess I really DO have an anti-party attitude.

  7. Anonymous7:45 PM

    TIES: Well, I'm glad you said there was erroneous "dating" on the Tie Reports and that we are now back to the future; I was beginning to think Alzheimer's was rearing it's ugly head.

    Now, the tie you describe for July 3rd... was that the one you described with a fancy word for a sort of "candy" red? I was going to sneak back into old tie reports, but, of course, these are not like posts. Here today, gone tomorrow.

  8. Anonymous8:14 PM

    I used to host parties and have people over for dinner regularly. I even hosted family reunions with as many as 60 people showing up and annual Christmas open houses with 50 invitations sent. I did birthday parties for my kids, and a few holiday dinners. I hosted "block parties" for my neighbors. T.hen about five years ago I scaled down to only hosting parties for my best girlfriends. In Belgium, I did one party and one dinner and that's it. I especially hate entertaining in Belgium because my fridge and oven are so small, I can't buy ice, and I don't even have a spare outlet to plug a crock pot into. My husband complains that I "never" entertain anymore and I just want to shove a sock in his mouth.

  9. brookelina--sigh. i will never use a caterer. i am too cheap and too picky.

    ortizzle--i once used the word "carnelian", but i don't even have that particular tie report in the archive. my archives start in the middle of that run of vintage ties back in feb., and that one isn't included. i'm still toying with the idea of having a separate blog for just the archives, but i'm not sure if there's really any point. If there were photos, that would be one thing, but I'm not about to get that worky with the screen caps of the webcast, etc.

    V--you know, this post of mine really lost focus as I was writing it. I kind of wanted it to be about my husband's oblivious moment. And no one even commented on that part. I know it's my fault: I made it about my aversion to entertaining, but really--men like the parties because by and large they don't have the major prep work. They also are not the ones judged for the event. Women are.


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