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The Early Bird…is Just Obnoxious!

Many years ago during a television interview with the actress Bonnie Hunt, she said her family used the “Door Bell” method of housekeeping. You don’t bother to clean until the doorbell rings. While I don’t personally subscribe to this method, I do appreciate it.

I feel strongly about guests showing up early. I am strongly against it. Unless you’re having a medical emergency—in which case you should probably go to the hospital first—please don’t come to my house or event one second ahead of the stated time.

I was reminded of this concept several times in the last couple of weeks. I went to a baby shower in Jersey where half the guests showed up early. What is that all about? Is it a Jersey thing? The baby Grandma was rushing around trying to put the finishing touches on a lovely venue and was forced to entertain at least two dozen people ahead of schedule. Another friend of mine was hosting house guests who gleefully texted they’d hit the road sooner than expected and would be hours early. What! For God sakes, take the scenic route! Yet another acquaintance works weddings. She told me about an event just last weekend when many of the guests arrived at the reception venue half an hour early and actually banged on the doors. When she did let them in several people demanded mixed drinks even before the bar was set up.

For those of you who don’t get it, here’s the deal. Most of us mortals don’t keep a spotless house and must prepare for visitors. I take pride in presenting a clean home or well prepared venue. My mother used to say it should look like a stage set when folks walk in and then everything can go to hell. This prep takes a certain amount of time and scheduling because I have other stuff going on. Some of us also have pets so it doesn’t make sense to start cleaning a moment too soon because all will be re-fuzzed within minutes. When I’m done cleaning and prepping food, I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I prep myself. If you show up early, I miss the one part of party prep I enjoy.

Many people will say, “I thought you might need help so I came early”. If I need help, believe me I’ll ask for it in advance. I’ve never been accused of martyrdom. If you volunteer and I politely decline, I’m not being polite, I really don’t want you early. No one is that helpful. Some people will assume their bond with the hosts is strong enough that it doesn’t matter if they show up early and just hang out. Unless you’re still in the womb, there is no bond strong enough for an early arrival.

I realize I’m a little crazy about time. I worked in the television news business for many years where every second was accounted for. Time really WAS money! The only exception was 16 years ago when the clock stopped and we threw revenue to the wind in order to supply a platform for our community to grieve.

My family tells me this television-time perspective has left me with an unhealthy attitude toward punctuality on both ends of the punctal spectrum. OK, I can live with that.

Do you mind people showing up early? Don’t you cherish those last few moments when you can look around your house and admire your work while sipping Prosecco and applying mascara? In my husband’s case, it’s drinking beer and watching whatever sport is on TV (sorry son, I know you hate stereotypes but it’s true.)

Thank you for visiting, and not a moment too soon.

Playing Host at a Restaurant

Playing Host at a Restaurant

There have been many occasions when, instead of hosting a dinner party at home, my husband and I have taken people out to eat. There are some obvious incentives, not the least of which is less prep on my part.

We usually pick somewhere we’ve been before. We are fortunate that Richmond is in a restaurant renaissance. That may sound pretentious…until you go to one of the amazing eateries popping up like yummy mushrooms and try the chef’s take on soft- shell crab, fried green tomatoes, or tres leche cake. Then you’ll say, “That’s not pretentious, that’s delicious!”

When hosting we make it clear it’s our treat. If the guest offers to pick up a round of drinks or the tip, I think it’s OK to accept graciously. If they don’t, that’s OK too. Guests should not feel obligated. The only thing I absolutely cannot abide is a tussle over the bill. My husband’s family has mastered this sport. One relative literally ripped a bill in half trying to wrestle it from my husband. Frankly, I would have given it to her gladly! And I’m not talking about the bill. But I digress.

I think hosts should offer to drive and be mindful of their alcohol intake. If a guest has a compelling reason to drive, I think that’s all right too and the offer should be gratefully accepted. It’s a funny thing, when people hear I’m supposed to drive they become very keen on providing the transportation themselves. I’ve been known to back into things.

If possible, we make reservations to prevent a wait. Needless to say, everyone should do their best to be on time. There is nothing more stressful than chasing a reservation at a popular place because your guest wasn’t ready. If there is no emergency, there is only one reason for keeping people waiting. And that is because you’re a jerk.

I often see complaints in etiquette columns from hosts whose guests have ordered expensive entrees. I don’t quite get this. I assume that if my hosts have invited me to a restaurant, they can afford to feed me. I don’t think it would be polite to order a take home meal for the babysitter, but if it’s on the menu it’s fair game. No pun intended. Same for drinks and various courses.

Unfortunately we have hosted guests at restaurants where the service is bad. Although the host has no control over this variable, I always feel awkward about bad service, as if I were the one holding things up. What does one do? You don’t want to bring attention, but it gets to that awkward point when everyone is hungry. It’s like an elephant in the room that you wish were on your plate. On one occasion when the drinks hadn’t shown up after 45 minutes, we got up and left. I think the arrival of drinks is a pretty good gauge. Besides, after a round of drinks you don’t care as much. Another telling sign is if very few diners have food in front of them.

If the actual food is not up to a guest’s standards, I think they should just grin, chew, and bear it. After all, you can’t beat the price. I feel it’s rude to criticize a free meal. That’s happened to me several times and I’m always taken aback by it. To me it’s the same as criticizing a gift. It’s all right to politely send something back that’s the wrong order or woefully undercooked. But to compare food unfavorably to other restaurants, or even home-cooked meals, is insulting to the hosts. What’s the point? Keep it to yourself, or better yet find something you can complement, like the company.

What finishes off the meal best is a heartfelt thank you; from the guests for the meal, and from the hosts, for the fellowship. Even if everything sucked, at least you didn’t have to shop, cook, or clean. That is something to be thankful for.

Thank you for visiting.

A Hostess Who Doesn’t Like to Hug?!

A Hostess Who Doesn’t Like to Hug?!

I am apparently the only human being left in the United States of America who doesn’t like to press her body against complete strangers. You can add semi-strangers, most co-workers, and people I don’t like
to that list. This can make hosting and being hosted awkward at times.

Here’s the scenario. You’re introduced to someone in a social situation and offer your hand. Before you can say, “Get the hell away from me!” the person has pulled you into a bear hug with the oft heard phrase “I’M A HUGGER!” Well guess what? I’m NOT A HUGGER SO DON’T DO IT! I find someone I don’t know taking that kind of intimate physical liberty with me extremely off putting. But what’s a person to do? It all happens so fast. I suppose I could jump back and say, “Sorry, having a nasty flare up,” but not say what I’ve got. Then offer them a lovely snack I’ve made.

And what message does all this stranger hugging send to our kids? We spend every teachable moment telling them people they don’t know are horrible beasts who would kidnap them at the drop of a hat. Then parents demand their children hug and/or kiss perfect strangers on first reference. Words like “Aunt Beatrice” or “Uncle Chuck” don’t mean squat to a toddler. Just once I’d like to hear a little fellow say, “If you like that creepy old lady so much, YOU hug her!”

I have instituted a new tradition with my little friends. When the inevitable instruction to “Give Aunt Kiki a hug” comes, I explain to the parents that I’m against forced hugging. After I’ve gotten to know the little person—and if they’re not covered in some bodily fluid or God awful rash—I give them the choice of a handshake or a hug. I was extremely gratified last Thanksgiving when one of my favorite 5-year- old guests said he’d like both.

Now before you start calling me “cold” or “stand offish” (like my relatives do), I want you to know that I enjoy hugging as much as the next guy. But I consider it a physically intimate gesture best saved for loved ones. Is that really so bad?

Any way. I would seriously like to hear what my readers think and some suggestions from you experienced hosts and hostesses.

Thank you for visiting.


Gracious Hosting in the Workplace

Gracious Hosting in the Workplace

I recently went back to work after a long hiatus. I took a job as a management specialist for a local police department…and I love it! The hours are good, it’s great for my retirement, and the commute is beautiful. I pass Patrick Henry’s house twice a day. Yeah, that Patrick Henry.

But the main reason I like it so much is because my co-workers are so damn nice! They are the world’s best workplace hosts. It’s been almost a month now and I have yet to meet one person who isn’t openly, aggressively, nice! I have worked in law enforcement before and this is not normal. What’s with this place? Is it in the water? Are they piping it in through the air ducts? Have the real people been replaced by the Stepford Staff? Am I next to emerge from my cubicle-pod as a nice employee? I’m already starting to feel nicer a little around the edges. There goes my rep.

Example, the woman who’s training me. After a long session of correcting my numerous mistakes from the previous day with amazing patience…she asks me if I work out because I seem like I’m in good shape. Are you serious? No, I don’t work out and believe me it shows. Are they all blind too?

I have sort of a cubicle-office in the corner. When I pipe in on a conversation from the common area, they refer to me as The Cubicle. “See, I told you so! Even The Cubicle agrees with me.” Because of my cubicle’s placement there are two male officers I can hear but not see. They are hilarious and I call them Lucy and Ethel (only in my head). The other day they got some new camera equipment that they were just gaga about. “Oh my gosh, it’s waterproof! That is so cool! Did you take it in the bathtub to check it out?” I finally met them in person the day when I was fighting with my new “Date Received” stamp. I just kept slamming it down harder and harder on my desk waiting for it to submit and release its precious ink. Finally Ethel came over and offered his assistance. Then Lucy piped in as well. I love those guys. Ethel is on vacation this week and I think Lucy kind of misses him.

Of course my perspective may be skewed by that “hiatus” I mentioned earlier. I quit my previous job to finish my degree and it took me a lot longer to get work than I’d expected. We’re talking a soul killing long time. So maybe I’m just really happy to have a J-O-B! And a P-A-Y-C-H-E-C-K. Maybe that’s part of it.

Anyway, thank you for visiting and I hope you have a fabulous day and you look great and I love your outfit and please let me know if you need anything and have a nice weekend.


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The Barbeque and Other Social Conundrums

The Barbeque and Other Social Conundrums

I recently attended the birthday party of a neighbor held outside on their lawn. The set up was perfect; tables and chairs under a large tent that provided some much-needed shade. The meal was catered by a barbeque outfit, the kind that pulls right onto the venue with a big old cooker that looks like a huge black barrel on its side. They provided appetizers, main dishes, fixins’, and sides. Delicious! A gorgeous dessert table was set up just inside the kitchen of the 1790’s era home. I felt like I was on the set of Steel Magnolias.

The host and hostess were extremely gracious and managed to make each of the guests feel welcome and comfortable. This was quite a feat considering attendees ranged from close relatives and friends to church members to new neighbors. There was also a wide range of ages from about 18-months-old to over 80. Most of these folks were delightful and I’d like to think I’ve made some new friends. I also learned a lot about my new neighborhood. For instance, did you know there is an insurance designation called an “attractive nuisance?” This is something on your property, like…oh I don’t know…say an old mill on a stream that is no longer functional but adds to the beauty and ambiance of the neighborhood. Cool huh?

Whenever I go to an event like this, or any party or celebration, I am always left with the question, “What is the individual guest’s responsibility in terms of socializing?” Is it enough to simply show up, or is there an obligation to interact with other guests including those you don’t know?

I was trained up to be an active participant in social situations regardless of my reason for being there or my mood at the time. This includes making conversation with people and being an active listener. It was part of what a friend of mine calls “Home learning,” and is right up there with saying please and thank
you. I don’t care how old you are or why you attended, I think it’s actively impolite to sit around at a social function looking overtly bored or spending all your time communicating with people who aren’t there. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a sparkling conversationalist all the time. Lord knows I would fall waaaay short of that goal. I’m talking about really basic stuff like introducing yourself, putting a damn smile on your face, asking appropriate questions, and at least faking interest in the answers. Here are some examples:
“How do you know our hosts?”
“Are you from out of town or local?”
“This barbeque is really good. Are you a fan of the Virginia or North Carolina variety?”
“I see you’re wearing a UVA tie, my condolences.”
It’s not that difficult. Even if you’re shy or socially awkward you can at least try to look pleasant and approachable and teach your children to do the same.

But perhaps I’ve got it all wrong? Do we owe our hosts anything more than our presence? Do we have an obligation to instill some basic social skills in our children and make sure they get some practice before we release them into the wild? Thoughts?

Thank you for visiting.


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