A Modern Survival Guide Interlude
This is the Modern Survival Guide, a guidebook for interacting in the modern world. This article is an interlude, a brief aside that talks about a tip for modern living. This isn’t a philosophical insight or a deep discussion of human impulses; it’s just something people might want to know, and this time around we’re talking about hosting a party.
As much as the introverts among us might want to, we can’t all spend our days alone in our respective domiciles, quietly passing the time with a good book. Sooner or later other people will probably come over and visit. When they do, you should make the experience pleasant for them, whether you like them or not. There are a BUNCH of reasons for this.
The first is obvious: someone who has come into your home is probably there for a reason (unless you enjoy inviting strangers in off the street). Maybe they’re friends or family, or business acquaintances, or possibly the police coming to ask where you were on the night of November the 7th, and is this your ski mask, sir? The point is, if they’re important enough to come to your place, they’re probably important in your life and it’s not a good idea to just ignore them.
The second is subtle: you might have fun. Hosting can be rewarding. People are social creatures, after all.
The third is blatant: if they have a good time at your place, they might invite you back to their place! Huzzah for human interaction!
The fourth is narcissistic: you get to show off your stuff. Yeah, that’s my 80-inch 4K TV.
The fifth is supernatural: they might be a god. No, seriously, this is where an enormous variety of hosting traditions come from. Ancient peoples (and presumably a great deal of modern people) tended towards hospitality because you could never be quite sure that the stranger by the roadside wasn’t Odin. Or an angel, or whatever.
For whichever reason you have decided to let other people wander around your home, here are some tips on how to do it right:
- Designate an entertainment space. This is where you will be hosting the event. In most homes, this is as easy as opening some doors and keeping others closed. Or locked, as the case may be if you are hosting a children’s party. Adults should know better than to go into closed rooms.
- Clean your stuff. The bare minimum is to vacuum/sweep the floor, get your laundry out of entertainment spaces, and make sure your place doesn’t smell. Depending on the people coming over and your personal degree of OCD, cleaning will scale rapidly up from there, and usually in proportion to the importance of the guests. You’re going to want to polish the furniture the first time you meet your future in-laws; not so much if your neighbor is coming over to play Xbox.
- Hide anything you don’t want to be part of the event. Unless you are planning to serve that $300 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, get it out of sight. Unless you are hosting an orgy, or you are extremely familiar with your guests, do not display your prized 12" dildo. Unless you want people to comment on them, move your collection of animatronic dolls to the other room. Remember that whatever is in the entertainment space is fair game for the party.
- Have food and drinks prepared. These should be clearly displayed in the entertainment space. Cups and plates are also usually a good idea.
- Ask about allergies and food preferences. You don’t want to serve Pad Thai to someone with a peanut allergy, or serve soup in bread bowls to someone on a gluten-free diet.
- Set a time to start the event. And then finish all preceding steps by that time.
- Plan activities. People will eventually run out of small talk. Have a movie, Jenga, card games, board games, etc. lined up for when people want to do something other than talk to each other. This may or may not happen, but it’s good to have a backup plan.
- Cater to your guests’ needs. Ask if people need refills or more food at appropriate intervals (i.e. when their cups or plates are empty). Make sure the temperature is comfortable for everyone. Make sure people have places to sit, and napkins, silverware, etc. Within reason, guests should receive high-quality silverware and plate-ware. A casual dinner party is probably not the place for grandma’s heirloom silverware, but it’s probably not the place for Styrofoam and plastic either. However, when in doubt, use the best — even if you’re only able to break out the good plastic and Styrofoam, guests will appreciate this.
- Be courteous, patient, and pleasant. Never give a guest the impression that they are imposing on you. This, more than anything else other than making sure your home smells OK, is the most important part of keeping your guests comfortable.
Being a host is fundamentally about placing the needs and comfort of others ahead of your own, at least for a little while. For some people this comes naturally; for others it’s pure torture. But it remains one of the more important skills you can learn as an adult.