The Ghost of Parties Past

Yes, the Goose Creek Christmas Gathering was going to be a big deal. But how big, and how to deal with the enormity of the event looked very different through eyes from Venus versus those from Mars. If men ruled the world of social events (and they don’t) these occasions would be much more come-as-we-are affairs. Preparation would start, oh, a day or two beforehand, not a month. It would be a disaster.

And yet, every year, the disparate approaches to such self-inflicted and pleasant tasks as planning a big gathering at the house brings out those differences between host and hostess. I started thinking about just what those different world views looked like, but didn’t make it very far. Even so (to be amended over time and as a basis for negotiating future Grand Gatherings) here’s the list so far. Maybe you have a similar dichotomy at your house and have lived through to The Other Side–which, I am both happy and a bit sad to report, is where we are this morning. The morning after.

And looking back, heck, I hate to admit, she was probably right all along.

Social Planning from Venus:

  • Everything is urgent
  • Everything that can be done should be done (this one, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • If 5 is enough, we can’t do less than 8 (relative units of effort or substance applicable just about anything imaginable)
  • Our purpose is to offer all these people a good time; we, as host and hostess, were not meant to share in it
  • Assume responsibility for everything
  • Any omissions or shortcomings represent self-esteem demerits; demerits are conferred only by the female members of couples visiting.
  • Corollary to above: All other women in attendance have much higher standards than we do, and would be appalled to learn we sometimes live with ladybugs, dog hair, cob webs or dust bunnies.
  • Corollary to above: of all husbands, darn the luck, yours is the slobbiest
  • Everybody coming to our house will be dangerously malnourished and there probably won’t be enough food, no matter how many casseroles, stuffed pizzas or deserts are provided by the hostess

Social Planning from Mars:

  • Everything on the to-do list for a time may be important; very little will ever be urgent
  • Things omitted will probably only be noticed by us
  • Nobody is keeping score
  • Things omitted or errors made make the wife no less a good hostess than if every last detail was remembered. And they were probably due to forgetfulness or indifference on the part of the husband, after all.
  • Delegate to others; they are happy to help
  • We are host and hostess, not staff. These are our friends, not our employers. Enjoy!
  • Corollary to the above: the party succeeds to the degree to which we take an opportunity to listen to each of our guests and make them feel welcome, not fill their plates and cups
  • I doubt anybody is going to open up the closets in our bedroom. Rearranging one’s clothes by color to pass inspection is overkill.

The dog is slurping around behind me now, patrolling the carpets for invisble spots of crab dip (that will become visible after the sun comes up.)

We discovered just a few minutes ago that nobody found the cooler with the beer. (Oh well. I’ll have to deal with that one one elbow-flexion at a time over the next month. Help me, anyone?)

I’m learning people were here that I never even saw.

Ann is looking for a place to store the new punch bowl she purchased for the occasion; it’s big enough for a family of cats. What was she thinking!

Upstairs in the Red Room, the kids last night tied the helium balloons onto the Fisher Price Farm family, and thus tethered, they sway in the dark in the rising heat of the woodstove.

If you take the sum total of good times, new friendships, pleasant conversations and feelings of conviviality on one side of the scales, and the total effort, angst and preparation (and inter-planetary wrangling about the details) on the other, I don’t think there’s any question which way the balance would tip. Even so, I think maybe, if we do this again next year, she and I might want to do less and mingle more. But then, I’m only an elf.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. A beer elf, too! I’ve only been in a similar party situation once or twice, but that is enuf for me to empathize with your experience.

    Wish I could help you with the beer disposal duties.

  2. Ay,ay, ay! I’m a lot more like you, Fred! However, the world keeps turning thanks to the existence of a variety of different skills and temperaments. The only important thing is that you two can bump along with your differences, without feeling that either of you is superior – or, God forbid, can be changed, but I’m sure you gave up on that one many years ago.

    Enjoy the beer!

  3. i used to lean toward the venus side…but am starting to relax a little the more we host. plus most of our friends have little kids, so there’s not much use deep cleaning and cooking gourmet meals….