There will never be a time when the Queen of England, Beyonce, and The New York Times food critic converge on your doorstep for a formal dinner party, so stop the bullshit excuses about not having company over "until you've got your shit together."
By not allowing friends and family into your personal spaces you are diminishing your opportunities for intimacy and friendship and deep fried appetizers - you know, the important things in life. I'm all for well-organized common areas and tidy surroundings, but to put off enjoyment for sake of a cluttered set of bookshelves is just plain stupid. By waiting until the perfect conditions for company are met, you are punishing yourself. You are punishing your family. You are missing out on the joy that delivery pizza, beer, and friends can offer when gathered in a toy-filled family room.
I've been an independent adult with the ability to entertain others for over 20 years. In that time, I have done so only a handful of times — up until the last five years. Before that, I issued invitations two weeks in advance, allowing myself that time to plan menus, steam clean carpets, paint baseboard trim, and purchase matching creamer and sugar sets. I was a new-bride, then a new-mom, then a newly-single woman and there was always something in my environment completely beyond my control, with me standing behind it, proverbial whip in hand, trying to organize chaos.
It took me until my late 30s to see reality: This chaos? This uncontrollable environment? This is life.
I've often thought about who I was cleaning for. I didn't clean so much for family; I mean, they love me no matter the mess. Rather I cleaned for those I wished to impress, or those with whom I felt a degree of (self-imposed) competition. Then this week, I read "Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship" and wished I had read it a decade ago:
"Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are."
The universe has a funny way of imposing balance: When your house is clean a kid will wake up barfing, when the kids are all healthy the screen door will be ripped, when the windows are all clean the fridge will be empty. If you wait for the perfect circumstances to have friends and family over to share food and conversation, you will be waiting forever, and before you know it, 20 years will have passed and all your friends have made new friends who let them see the inside of their houses, stained carpets and all.
I can absolutely guarantee that no one will judge you by the amount of dust on your bathroom shelves, and should they choose to do so they are not worthy of your time or your hospitality. It is more likely that the presence of dust will reinforce their affection for you, because they too have dust in their homes and will feel a kinship.
There are a few things you should do before company comes, but the list is easy:
Your home need only be as clean as you and your family prefer — and this is different for every family but only your family gets a say so, stop worrying.
Getting your shit together means having more good days than bad, and includes enjoyable social engagement with other human beings whose views you can tolerate/laugh at when they leave. Challenge yourself to issue an impromptu invite this week, because even super-introverts with less-than-showroom-perfect homes need human interaction more than once a decade, so have some friends over for a goddamn pizza.
I don't consider myself a snob of any incarnation. I enjoy food which has been passed to me through sliding windows, music made from eclectic assortments of household implements, and clothing meant for someone decidedly not my size, age, gender, or biological classification. Because if I can find a sweater in just the right colour, what does it matter if it was meant for a dog? Sew up the extra arm holes, or keep them for easy bathroom access. It's all good is what I am saying.
But when it comes to potluck parties or communal gatherings where other people bring in food, I get a bit nervous about bringing my family. And by "bit" I mean "crazy levels of most definitely a lot." I get a bit "bring what I can fill-up on and/or eat before we go" nervous. Once there I'll only eat those foods which I am able to identify. A potluck is no time for surprises. Surprises are bad. No surprises ever, please, especially those involving Grandma's famous grape jelly and brown sugar. And even if the first identification test is passed there are a few other potluck criteria which must be met:
If the answer is "no," then that food is immediately out of the question for consumption and I don't care if it's rolled in hundred-dollar bills and dusted with crushed diamonds.
No? Then no. Also, no. For that matter, why am I even here? Get the kids out of the sandbox. We have better shit to do than hang out with these people I don't like and their bowls of (probably) poisonous salad.
This is crucial, and can only be overlooked if you have one of those really strong good gut feelings about the person. If you don't, you'll probably soon have gut feelings of an ungood sort. For all you know they could running a salmonella cat-shit lab in there. Did you know some people let their cats on their kitchen counters? CATS POOP IN BOXES AND THIS IS NOT NATURAL.
It can be tricky to get a good look. Try admiring a ring or asking about the bar fight that led to a particular knuckle scar. I hope the search comes up clear, because fingernails are a petri-dish of possible death scenarios. Pretend it's delicious, then hit KFC for a bucket. At least you can assume the health department has been there in the last six months.
Hahaha! Your kid is so funny and also disgusting, so NO. Here, have some of my famous dog-hair pancakes.
Not doing it. This goes double for any recipe containing the word "chunks."
All signs point to "Let's go home now." It's never too late to make new friends. Try Twitter.
I know what goes on in my own kitchen and sometimes it's not pretty. I understand the Five Second Rule and I like to push limits so you need to understand that if you eat something I've prepared. Things happen. I have children. No court would convict me. But I wouldn't serve it to friends or strangers.
People ask if I eat at restaurants and yes, I do. And yes, I know that what happens there is probably way, way worse than anything you could even imagine happening in a suburban home. I get it. It's like my fear of flying in that you cannot fight an irrational fear with rationality. Don't even try because my idiosyncrasies are pretty strong and carry weapons. You can't win. I am unwinnable.
Forgive me if I give your potluck concoction the side-eye and pass it by if I overhear you in the bathroom line complaining about how you got "hot covered main dish" and that bitch Joanne got veggie side again, and how she just "dumped three goddamn cans of peas into a buttered bowl." I'm well enough acquainted with spite to understand how that probably played out in your house the day you had to assemble a fourteen layer casserole for people you don't particularly care for.
We all have our "thing" and when it comes to potluck, I'm happy to wear the badge.
This post was previously published at highly-irritable.com
Sex is always in the news because we're human and sex is awesome and we've got a 24hr news cycle to fill. This past month sex has been a particularly hot news topic in relation to teenagers. One story recommends parents put sexually active teenage girls on the pill, while another says you should get them an IUD. Have you seen the boxes those things come in? Thankfully, it turns out they are 99.7% packaging.
Some sources advocate letting kids squish their tingly parts together right there in the family home; you know, the place where your Gramma eats dinner and talks about how much she loves her kitty-cat, Mr.Pickles. That place. Yet other resources suggest you allow "side hugs only," a la 19 Kids style, until marriage. There has to be some middle ground, and that middle ground is probably happening in your rec room this weekend.
One thing that shouldn’t get lost in the fray over different methods of birth control is the importance of condoms. IUDs are the best and most effective form of birth control besides being a Duggar teenager, but condoms still need to be a huge part of the conversation. Yes; I said huge part in a conversation about sex. And then, when all your sex talk conversation is completed, step back, get out, leave it alone.
One reports says it’s better — safer even — to allow teenagers to have sex in the family home. Our own YMC resident sex-pert Nadine Thornhill has opinions about this, and she's an expert and a parent. When it comes to sex in the home, at first glance it does appear safer than, say, sex in a field where there is real, legitimate risk of being eaten by bears. But when it comes to sex at home as being safer from potential abuse or physical risk, I don't really see a correlation.
Sex in parent's homes may have some less risk, although safety from creepy spying strangers is definitely avoided if you're on home turf. But we need to remember that women are raped and assaulted in their own homes all the time. So are men. That’s sort of why they call it “domestic abuse.” It’s not “outside abuse,” or “under the football bleachers abuse.” Abuse happens everywhere; even in your half-finished basement on your in-laws old couch. Our best bet at protecting our kids from sexual abuse - irrespective of gender — is to teach them to not rape.
I’m not crazy about the idea of my kids having sex in my house. I know sex is normal and humans are sexual creatures and kids get horny, but once you’ve nursed and changed the diapers of a tiny baby, it’s difficult to see them as sexual beings for a long time afterwards. I was 26 years old when I became pregnant with my daughter and telling my dad was mortifying because it meant admitting that I had “done it.” Sex is something we like to do, not talk about. But, and parenting is filled with "buts" — I live in the real world, and so do my kids. And sex — the actual, physical acts of sex — are mostly their own business.
As parents it’s easy to say "no" to drinking in the home, or "no" to smoking pot, or "no" to watching Adam Sandler movies, because those things are in most instances illegal activities for teenagers (or should be). But sex between two consenting teenagers over a certain age is not a legal matter. Is it one which should be punished? As much as I don't want to watch M*A*S*H reruns where my daughter previously got-it-on, I wouldn't punish her for expressing her sexuality. I think we’re all aiming to raise responsible adults with a healthy appreciation for consensual sex. It’s not a shocker that sex feels good. It’s sort of designed that way to ensure people do it. If sex felt like doing your taxes I’d be scribing this post on stone while contemplating butchering the family dinosaur for winter meat.
I want my daughter — all our teens for that matter — to be safe and comfortable asking questions about sex. I want them to USE CONDOMS EVERY SINGLE TIME HAVE I SAID THIS BEFORE and I want them to select partners who are caring and respectful and honor one other's needs. I want this for teenagers regardless of age or sexual orientation and I do believe that if all of these criteria are met, that they deserve privacy in their sex lives. I haven't made up my mind about what I am comfortable with yet and I imagine that is a fluid line which will change position as my kids get older and emotionally mature. I'm not convinced that she'll get the privacy she's entitled to by having sex here when she's ready and willing, because I have a tiny bungalow and other children and a dog with serious personal boundary issues.
Outside of educating my daughter with contraceptive knowledge and making the importance of its use crystal clear and non-negotiable on an on-going and possibly irritating basis, I expect little from her in terms of intimate details of her sex life. I trust her to make that call on her own, and while I have input on the big picture stuff like birth control and safety, I don't have a right to the intimate details.
Just as with her watching Adam Sandler movies, I don't want to know about it.