Tonight, I had to leave work before I got everything I needed to done. I actually had to bring work home with me–something I NEVER do. I had to skip my usual trip to the gym to break in brand-spanking-new running shoes. (Don’t judge me; it is wet outside. You can’t totally ruin new shoes in the rain the very first time you wear them…) I cleaned my bathroom. I washed every dish in the sink. I dumped the classic “Sour Cream and Onion Soup Mix” dip out of the plastic tub and into an actual bowl. I even swept my entire apartment. (I live in a converted Victorian house. Sweeping is the most hopeless cause since St. Jude took them up–dust literally comes out of the walls…) I got out a clean dish towel. I am now writing this blog and I am still wearing real pants, rather than the preferred leggings or pajamas.
I have done all of this because I have friends coming over for dinner tonight.
At moments like this, I hanker to just call everyone and say, “Let’s just meet at the restaurant across the street…” It would be so much easier.
Long ago (before Christmas), “Kelly,” “Morgan,” and I did this exclusively. We had a few quiet restaurants that we’d frequent every few weeks when we all could get together. It was really a very pleasant state of affairs, if you must know. But then I got the bright idea that we should use our aligning spring breaks to go somewhere on vacation together. (I believe my exact specifications were: 1. Someplace warm. 2. Someplace where I can those floofy drinks with umbrellas in them. 3. Someplace where no one will ask me any questions that begin with, “Hey, Miss D, can I…” for five days. A girl has to have her standards.)
And rather than what usually happens–agreeing it’s a great idea and then doing nothing about it–the two of them came over to my house before the new year and we actually bought the tickets for the Caribbean. It’s very exciting (especially as we are now in the single digits until we leave…) However, we’re all teachers. We’re not exactly made of money.
So we started skipping going out and passing around who hosted dinner.
The hostess is responsible for the entree and usually one (easy) side. The other two bring sides or dessert. It is traditionally BYOB. Of course, sometimes this division of labor backfires. Kelly was hosting last time and said she had it all covered. All we needed to bring was what we wanted to drink, “unless we wanted to bring something else, too.” We ended up with four bags of chips, a pizza, a batch of cookies, a cake, and ice cream. Clearly, we struggle with scale.
I actually like this arrangement a lot more than I had originally thought. We still end up making those things you never make when you’re a one (pizza, burgers–I’ve got pulled pork simmering in my CrockPot as I write this…), plus, you’re in charge. You don’t like that song that’s playing? No problem. It’s my Pandora–it’s gone. You can literally sit at the table for four hours and not feel guilty. You don’t have to keep ordering drinks and desserts and things you don’t want just as a way to apologize to your waiter that you’re still at this table on a Friday night. Falling asleep halfway through the movie is a totally acceptable life choice.
Plus, I like seeing people’s houses. I like seeing how each house has a personality as unique as its owner. As an aside, let me here insert I am secretly suspicious of people who don’t decorate their living spaces. There is no bigger red flag than a bunch of blank walls. I’m always thinking things like, “What’s wrong with you?” “Are you a cardboard human?” “Do you like living in a hotel room?” Or, when I’m feeling particularly ‘judge-y’, “Are you some sort of sociopath?”
Fortunately, my friends do not fall into this category. Morgan, for example, has the most coordinated apartment I’ve ever seen. The beach theme isn’t just in the bathroom–it flows seamlessly through every room in the entire house. Kelly still has a couch that looks like she got it in college, because she’s been too busy buying the five million books she has in bookshelves all over the place. My apartment is channeling “found beauty” meets “vintage cornucopia.” We are all friends, and we all get along, but our houses are all so different.
I may never have known these things about my friends if I’d never gotten around to seeing their apartments or experienced equally sincere but drastically different hospitality around their tables.
I’m beginning to think that maybe this is the way things should be. I remember my parents and their friends rotating game nights–all the kids played in various basements and the grown-ups played ’80’s favorites like Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit upstairs. I don’t know many people who do that sort of thing anymore. But what I know about Kelly and Morgan now makes me think that maybe we lost something when people started closing up their homes from their friends and acquaintances because life wasn’t as shiny as the photos on the wall.
That maybe it’s worth it to let people see your not-quite-clean bathroom rather than opting to meet at a coffee shop. Maybe it’s worth bringing work home with you once in a while to let people share your actual life. Maybe we should say fewer Let’s-meet-at-that-Mexican-place’s and a few more Come-on-over’s. Maybe we should act a little less perfect and be a little more real…
But I have to go.
I just heard the doorbell.