Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obsessive Compulsive Entertaining

I watch real estate shows. I store them up on my Tivo and watch them while working out, or futzing around the kitchen, or frankly, with my butt parked firmly on the couch. I like houses, I've always liked houses. From Buy Me to House Hunters through to My House is Worth What? all the way into renovation shows, I watch them. We renovated the living daylights out of our last house, and eventually we're likely to do the same here.

In my channel travels I've noticed something, and it leads to my question: Just how much are other people entertaining?

If I take HGTV at their word, barely a moment passes in the lives of nearly everyone but me between actually having parties, preparing for guests, or planning out the next shindig. Prospective buyers never glimpse a kitchen without referencing how a specific kitchen either would benefit entertaining, or would preclude it. Everyone wants an open kitchen so as to be able to talk to their guests, while entertaining, of course. They don't want to be isolated while cooking.

This has led me to believe that, as difficult as it is to accept, we must be a family of Hermits in Training, Recluses in the Making and Borderline Anti-Socials because whereas we have guests from time-to-time, a busy year for us would be two dinner parties. We have plenty of years that go by with only one, and thus far this year? Not a one. We were sort of busy looking for a new house, moving into the new house, and now completing the necessary painting and decorating. When we have spare time? We nap, or collapse, in gratitude, no less.

We're invited places, but we're as likely to pass on an invitation as we are to accept one, depending on the weekend. We tend to have a couple, or a person over for dinner, rather than throw full scale parties.

HGTV would have us believe that we're nearly freakish because of this. When we bought this house one of our concerns was not how well the kitchen, family room, and dining room would benefit entertaining, but how much we liked them. Our vast living room remains empty at this moment, because we still need to furnish the cavernous thing. If we had guests over right now, they'd get a lot of practice standing.

That's kind of a good thing because whoever designed the layout for this place never threw a party in their lives. The butler's pantry and the dining room have the kitchen in-between them, which amuses me to no end. Here you traverse one hall that sports the butler's pantry, take a turn through the kitchen, and then access the dining room through a separate door. I guess this is meant to allow your guests a full tour when you set up a buffet? Or perhaps the builder wanted to insure that in the boundless entertaining fever that has gripped the nation, you should still make sure to get plenty of exercise. Take a lap with that glass of wine.

Maybe we're just a family of homebodies. Or maybe I'm just deeply odd because I don't want to interact with guests while I'm cooking, I want them out from under foot so that I don't spectacularly ruin whatever the heck I'm making. Cooking as a spectator sport baffles me, and I've been cooking for a long time. I'm also a pretty darned good cook, but if you want to see me surly in the kitchen? Get in the way while I'm cooking. It's not like I'll start hitting people with spatulas, but if I have my preference, I don't like to add milling people to gas stove stops, sharp knives, and quick movements. I want to be isolated to avoid the need for medical intervention for anyone, me included.

The thing is, I suspect that my husband and I, while both having a well developed sense of enjoying each others company, and our own, really aren't quite the shut-in, anti-socials that HGTV would have us believe. I think people make more claims to entertaining than exist in actuality.

Sure, we've all known that person who throws a party at the drop of a hat, and loves doing it. Someone who really loves having lots of people over, and thrives on the hubbub of a houseful. For the most part, I think people do what we do, have people over once in a great while and enjoy that.

At least I hope so. I may be wrong. After all, every neighbor I've met here comments on how quiet we are compared to the previous owners. They entertained a lot, evidently. Barely a weekend went by without a backyard BBQ and pool party.

There is, however, a reason I think that most people entertain infrequently.

Every person that has commented on our relative quietness has sounded vastly relieved by the change. Entertain a great deal and you will have the approbation of HGTV. Spend a lot of time reading, and quietly going about your business, and you'll be a lot more popular with your neighbors. Or so it seems.

Maybe everyone else is entertaining. I don't know. We like peace, and quiet, occasionally venturing out, or inviting others in.

Party on, and entertain if that's your preference. Every now and then it's mine, too.

But, and this is just a guess, I think that HGTV might be trying to sell us a bill of goods when it comes to the entertaining craze.


Kathryn said...

. . . we must be a family of Hermits in Training, Recluses in the Making and Borderline Anti-Socials because whereas we have guests from time-to-time, a busy year for us would be two dinner parties.

Oh, funny, funny! We're like that too. Tho, i'm not sure we've EVER had a dinner party. We've had a few parties where folks eat, but not a sit down dinner party. A couple of times a year we have the book club here. And i may have a friend or a couple over for dinner, but we're not big on having folks over, tho we love company. I think i am kind of a hermit.

Thanks so much for the smile you shared today! :)

The Bug said...

We don't entertain either. For years we lived in a tiny apartment - I think we maybe had 1 party, & a handful of folks over for dinner.

Now that we're in a house I don't really see that changing - we're just not those people.

DUTA said...

Entertaining is less a matter of house size and structure and more a matter of its inhabitants' inclination to socialize with people or not.

Anyway, where I live entertaining is done mostly in the garden of the house.

PhilipH said...

I don't even allow my wife into our small kitchen when I'm cooking the breakfast, lunch or dinner! Yep, I'm chief cook and bottle-washer; have been for the last 15 years!

Get outta my flickering way! Now!

Never 'entertained' or given 'dinner parties' in my life. When we lived in the south of England and London we would have relations round for Sunday lunch now and then. I liked to have my brothers and their family, or my wife's people over - but no more than a couple of times a year.

The only 'party' we've been to in the past 15 years or so is the Xmas party in the mansion house. This is just a few drinks and mince pies, sausage rolls and similar nibbly stuff. Don't mind this annual get together with all the others on this old estate but anything else: 'Thanks, but no thanks'.

We're not anti-social though. I loved setting up our ballroom dance evenings when we moved up to Scotland. We met some great friends that way. We'd regale them with tea or coffee with biscuits at half-time. We all enjoyed these social dance evenings. Can't do that now as wifey has a hip and leg problem.

No Alane, you're not unusual, in the dinner-party stakes!

Amy said...

Hi Alane, Glad to be back in the land of the living... My husband and I are also pretty "into ourselves." Occasionally we have a couple over but it's pretty much just the two of us and we like it that way. The exception is family - with our girls grown and extended family living in other states, we do look forward to visits, albeit short ones. Just returned from my sister's home in Scottsdale - they have a large home and entertain both inside and outside - lots of seating, lots of amenities. Personally, I love my humble abode and large garden which is ridiculously labor intensive. Speaking of which, the temps are lower today, so I'm on a mission to spruce up my outside domain. Do you feel energized when you return from a trip? I go go go until I get tired - that's one good thing about having company. The house gets cleaned!

I'm behind in my post reading - will try to go back and read some of your recent ones - the health debate is still raging - time to get those letters written to our representatives!

Land of shimp said...

Hi, Kathryn! Good to know I'm not alone in the "we gather in small numbers, if at all" approach.

We used to have game nights, bunches of people over, but frankly all of the couples we invited over ended up splitting up! I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with playing Cranium at our house, but then, why risk it? Hehe.

we're just not those people.

I think that's really the best way to put it, The Bug. Not as a condemnation, but as a differentiation. There are people who thrive on constant activity, and crowds. We are not those people. We thrive on quiet, and peace.

DUTA, I think it may also be about the type of socialization a person prefers. I like a quiet lunch with a friend, where we have an in-depth conversation, instead of "we all meet in a group, and are jolly, but touch on the surface things". Both are social things, but they are different things.

Philip, until this moment I didn't realize you're the cook in the household, too! I remember your saying you cleaned up, that your wife had done that as the children grew, and now it is your turn!

Good for you for taking your turn at the stove also! Hurray! I'm also glad to know I'm not the only person that wants people out of the kitchen, in no uncertain terms, when I'm cooking :-)

We have Christmas parties we attend also, and charity events. It's like having to stick my entire personality in tupperware for the evening. It's not bad, it's just...it's a duty, not a joy.

Welcome back, Amy! It's lovely to see your name again, and I'm so glad you had a nice trip. I do feel energized when I get home. I love my house, or rather, I love the feeling of being home, in the familiar surroundings.

For the last couple of days of a vacation, I start thinking about what I will do when I get home. I also clean like a fiend before leaving, to heighten that, "Ah, it's good to be home." feeling.

Have fun catching up in the land of blogs, and taming your garden! May the green thumb force be with you ;-)

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