Caroling outdoors on a crisp New England winter eve in the company of 25 souls who are so dear to me, singing those beautiful songs, knowing that hot food and good drink is waiting for me at the end — there's almost nothing better. The act of caroling together in the frosty air seems to bond people, and we all have a grand old time.
But the days and moments leading up to it — that is when I start making my own Nixon Enemies List.
Today I got this note from a friend:
At 3, I'll be making my way by bus and foot, probably via the Whole Foods so I can pick up a contribution. Is arriving a bit early verboten? Or could you tuck me away in some (warm) corner where I won't get in the way? I'm also hoping that another attendee will be willing to give me a ride home. If you know of someone who lives in my neck of the woods and can do some matchmaking, that would be helpful.Note: The party starts at 5:30.
So, in other words, my guest, one of 25, wants me to (1) give her permission to come ridiculously early, (2) make sure that she'll be warm enough while she waits for the party to start, and (3) be "helpful" by arranging her ride home. (She is an adult who chooses not to drive.)
I know that I'm in my pre-party prickly mode, but nonetheless: I do not think that any of this is my responsibility. (Imagine if all 25 guests made similar requests!) But she is my friend, so I responded civilly — and by Thursday night I'll be wholeheartedly delighted to see her. Such is the magic of the Caroling Party.
I believe that I am the dream party guest. In reality, I am not the dream party guest, since (1) I hate parties and usually back out at the last minute, and (2) I get edgy if there's no activity planned because I hate performing small talk with strangers, so I drink more than my share, hide from the other guests by checking out the host's bookcases, then leave early.
However. During my brief appearance at said party, my manners are exquisite.
Here is what I think all guests should do:
- RSVP within three days of receiving a personal invitation.
- Arrive on time — no more than 5 minutes early, no more than 15 minutes late.
- If you do come early, offer to help and then stay out of the way when the hostess refuses. Don't make any extra mess, and don't touch the party food until the party starts! (My dearest Brunie knows I'm talking to her now — but she's gotten much better over the years. Now, whether she's better at leaving the food alone or better at hiding her tracks, who can say?)
- When the hostess is trying to get hot food on the table, get out of her way. Leaving the kitchen to stand in the doorway is not sufficient.
- If it's a potluck, bring not only your contribution but everything you will need to serve it (a bowl or platter, a serving utensil). Do not make extra work for your host at her busiest moment!
- And don't just dump a bag of chips on your host's pretty table. A simple and attractive clear plastic serving platter or bowl can be purchased at Target for just a few dollars. Make the investment! You can use it forever.
(I really am not complaining about this, I appreciate any and all hostess gifts, but I do find it amusing. I only ever drink Chardonnay, and yet people almost never bring me a hostess gift of Chardonnay. Que sera sera.)
The party will be great fun and I will have a blast, despite how cranky I sound right now. (Husband can describe the whole emotional arc, starting on Sunday when I think about canceling, every single year.) One thing I've gotten very good at is not obsessing over how clean the house is ahead of time. It will be overrun with 25 people plus their kids and lots of snowy boots — my house will be trashed within seconds. And I'm delighted to have an excuse not to have to mop ahead of time, believe me.
Time to get some presents wrapped and in the mail.
Merry merry, happy happy!
— Lady C
I was fairly cross when I posted this in the a.m. (which was fairly obvious in my tone, nicht war?). I heard Husband stirring and went up to perch at the end of our bed.
- Me: I think I'm having regrets.
- Husband: Mmm?
- Me: I think people are going to read my blog today and get their feelings hurt.
- Husband: Hmm.
- Me: Maybe I should take it down.
- Husband: Mmm? Hmm.
And in fact, after he'd woken up a bit, Husband read this post and said yes, he thought it was a bit harsh. In the meantime, I'd reread it and thought, I stand by every word of this.
So, a couple of things:
Every one of my dear friends will find him- or herself in one of these bullet points. To me, the larger point is: You are my dear friend — and we continue to be dear friends, despite your flagrant flogging of my personal party etiquette guidelines, Brunie.
Most, if not all, of my friends think I'm just the tiniest bit demented when it comes to parties and party behavior. And also, opinions vary on the size of the "tiniest bit." The word "harpy" has been used, in other words.
Having said all that, I truly do apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings. Please forgive me.
On a final note, I just got THE MOST AWESOME e-mail from my fabby pal Writer Jenny, who is attending my Caroling Party (I have exhorted the guests to remember to bring flashlights, which are oft forgotten each and every year):
Pie and I are going to arrive about a half hour early. Hope that’s cool with you. We’ll just stand in your kitchen doorway with the bottle of Merlot I’m going to bring for you as a hostess gift. Oh, and would you mind, I’d love if you could find some nice strapping handsome man to walk us home. Hate walking in the dark, just us girls. And I’m assuming we can just borrow flashlights from you? Right? xxxooo, jenny
Life is sweet!!