I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly anxious person. Certainly, I have my moments. But I’ve always thought of myself as someone who has been through a great deal and came out way stronger than one would expect. I tend to come off as very strong, in a good way and I’ve had others say this to me, unprompted, on numerous occasions.
This weekend, I showed my belly.
I am a party goer, not a party thrower.
The idea of having others, even loved ones, visit my house is enough to make me nauseous. That’s why this weekend was one of the more horrible experiences I’ve had in a while.
Obviously, I lived to tell the tale, but it was touch and go for a while.
My partner and I found ourselves with quite the dilemma this year. I bought my ugly baby (i.e. house) in July of 2012 and moved in two months later. Ever since then, people keep wanting to come over. Go figure, right?
The problem is that the house needed (and still needs) a lot of work. It felt wrong for me to showcase the house while I’m still in the middle of remodeling it. And, my remodeling project will probably take me a total of 2-3 years.
So, people would ask me about having a housewarming party and I kept blowing them off. My reasoning was actually three-fold: 1) I was ashamed of my ugly baby, 2) I am not comfortable creating situations wherein people feel expected to give me gifts, and 3) I do not like to host parties.
The third item is really at the heart of this post. After living in my house for a year, I have started to get over my inferiority complex about it, and if people want to give me stuff, there’s only so long that I’ll fight them. But, it’s hard to get over my aversion for hosting. The reality is that it’s stressful to clean your whole house, prepare for a party, and have lots of guests over. And, when it comes to running this sort of event, I want it to be perfect, which only makes things harder. This week, I even worried about whether we had gotten nice enough toilet paper! Who does that?!?!
In the end, the housewarming could only be put off for so long. Last October, a family member asked Caroline if she would help throw me a surprise housewarming. How on earth this person thought that she could throw me a surprise party in my own house is beyond me. This person lives several hours away. Also, she knew that I didn’t want a housewarming so, it’s actually sort of a rude thing to do hidden under the auspices of doing something nice (sneaky).
Of course, Caroline, nervous about being asked for a favor by someone important to me, said yes. Then, she promptly came to me and said something along the lines of: “We have a problem. I know a secret and you’re not going to like it.”
Well, I didn’t like it. I made Caroline put this person off for months until finally the person called me to say that she had been trying to put this event together and realized that she couldn’t do it without me. By the time I had to have that conversation, I had been able to think of a compromise. I nicely told her that I didn’t feel that the house was ready for show and tell and that it seemed odd to throw a housewarming six months after moving in. I asked if we could throw the house a birthday party in the fall instead. By then, I would have been in the house for a year and the extra time would allow me to get a few more things fixed first.
Brilliant, right? Except now it’s fall and, despite the fact that it was my idea, I’ve been dreading this party for the better part of a year.
Then, it got worse.
As if a housewarming wasn’t bad enough, the event ended up evolving far beyond that. Instead we did sort of a bait and switch that made things even more stressful: we decided that this would be the first ancillary event related to our wedding.
Caroline and I are having a very small wedding and are determined to invite no more than 30 guests for our two and a half-day weekend wedding celebration. When we got engaged and then decided that the wedding would be small, we realized that we were bringing together about 20 people into very close quarters with complete strangers and that we would need to provide at least one opportunity for them to meet first.
Even though our guests are our closest family and friends only, many of them have never met. Some of the friends are from high school, college, and grad school. Others are from Caroline’s gym or random people whom we love but can’t remember how we got to know. And, in addition to the fact that many of our friends inhabit different social circles that had not been introduced, our families had not yet met either.
So, the housewarming party became a cookout, which became a venue for the in-laws to meet each other, as well as the wedding guests and some other friends that we threw in as filler. No pressure.
The party is not the problem. I am.
At 32, somehow I had managed to avoid throwing a dinner party for more than six people. I have had drinking parties in the past but it’s been more than ten years and I don’t recall serving food (ah, college). I had no idea how hard it would be to throw a party for 35 people, especially when the stakes are so high: Caroline and I are both desperate to impress our parents and friends.
It turns out that I can throw a perfectly acceptable party but that I can’t do it with any sort of grace.
I had a list of things that I wanted us to get done, as a team, before the guests arrived and I could not stop freaking out as we got closer and closer to party time. This made Caroline stressed, too, so she kept trying to calm me down which, in turn, pissed me off because every time she slowed me down it cost me one more thing on the never-ending list of stuff to get done.
I couldn’t eat, couldn’t settle, and had a completely miserable time. My mother (who arrived early) called me a drill sergeant and offered me Ativan.
There I was, surrounded by most of my favorite people, and I couldn’t even enjoy them because I was too busy refilling snack trays, setting up the dinner buffet, and making sure that my dog behaved. I have been informed that people liked the food and I got a few compliments on the house but I have only secondhand accounts of our parents’ conversations with each other and do not know if people minded the crappy beer selection.
By all accounts the party was a success. It doesn’t feel that way though. It feels like I wasn’t really there; as if I had showed up at someone else’s party and broken my toe coming in the door. It doesn’t matter if it was amazing because my memories are bad.
Wherein I decide that nothing is wrong with me, but something may be wrong with you…
I just don’t understand why some people host parties on a regular basis. Or, even more weirdly, how people actually enjoy it. We spent so much money and time without the benefit of having fun. The only way I’ve been able to justify it in my head is to think of it as a gift to our guests. If so, it was a pretty crappy gift: “I love you all very much! Come on over and sit on a plastic chair within the confines of a chain link fence with a whole bunch of people you don’t know. It’ll be awesome!”
Now that the weekend is over, my stress is finally starting to die down (though I do wish I had pocketed an Ativan). However, I find myself thinking ahead to next year and wondering how I’m going to handle the wedding. In my recent post, Wedding Jitters, I had no idea how badly I was going to act under this sort of pressure. Generally, I’m good at these sorts of things- I was actually a successful event planner for a few years. But, when you throw in the emotional aspect of putting your life on display for others and add in the vulnerability factor of people who know you very well talking to others that know you very well, it was all too much.
I don’t want to be like this at our wedding and will have to really think about ways to minimize my stress levels. It would be awful if we got all the way to the wedding and I barked orders at the (other) bride all day. (I’m totally open to suggestions, btw.)