Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Andie's Unsolicited Uptight Entertaining Etiquette for Introverts

It will come as no surprise to people who know me that I am introverted with all caps and an exclamation point. Or two. Always have been. I am naturally fearful of the generic "people", and do not mix with other humans without a significant amount of pain to my psyche.

Me. Most of the time.

However, I'm not quite to the unabomber stage. I am "normal" enough that I start to wither on the vine if I don't get some friendly human contact. This can be a real problem for me, since I work at home, and I can go days without laying eyes on anyone except Pootie. And Dinky.

"What are you saying? Why would you need anything more than me?"
 If Dinky was better company, I might not need to entertain. But this is him most of the day.

"You again? Listen, could you please close the door on your way out?"
Clearly, you can see that I need more than this dog can provide in the way of social stimulation. And Pootie's great, but we both need the company of others. So we have people over.

And that is my very first Unsolicited Uptight Entertaining Etiquette tip for Introverts, which may become a series, if you are Very Unlucky:

1. HAVE PEOPLE OVER. Break out of your shell, and bring people into your orbit. It does get a little easier the more you do it, and of course, you get to know your friends better over time so that makes it easier too. But it is crucial to my happiness to have friendly and meaningful human contact, and I'm betting it is for other introverts (who don't build bombs in the woods), too. And frankly, that dude probably could have done with a couple of dinner parties.

Partially introverted. But not as bad as I am.

Long, long ago, when I was young and beautiful and poor and right out of college, I moved to Atlanta. I didn't know a soul. I had no friends. And it took me forever to make any because for a long time, I had no coffee table. Yeah, you heard me. No coffee table.

I know this seems like a ridiculous reason not to invite guests to my apartment, and it was. Definitely. But sometimes we get a lot of messages that things should be perfect and beautiful when we "entertain". I had internalized Martha Stewart's "Entertaining" and then Bon Appetit just reinforced all that with their articles about people who entertain their 50 closest friends (who are all designers) at their weekend homes in the Hamptons. So I thought I couldn't invite some very nice neighbors over for coffee and cookies, because I didn't have enough chairs to sit in or a coffee table to set anything down on. Seriously.

I know. I needed therapy.

I miss these guys!

Eventually, I did become very good friends with them. I'm not sure how I overcame that particular mental obstacle, because I didn't have a coffee table for years. But overcome it, I did, and we passed many evenings cooking for one another.

This leads me to tip #1a.

1a. YOUR ENTERTAINING ENVIRONMENT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT. DO NOT USE IT AS A LAME INTROVERT EXCUSE FOR NOT HAVING PEOPLE OVER. I'm not saying don't make sure your bathroom doesn't look like a single-seater in a smoke-tainted dive after a blues jam, but don't sweat the fact that you haven't scrubbed every surface with Clorox before you'll invite someone over to have a beer and grill some hot dogs.

Carol and David. Maybe marginally introverted. But...nah, not really. And yes, our backyard is nice now, but it's taken us 20 years to build up a good entertaining area. And it ain't no place in the Hamptons.
Have I mentioned I have a dog? And he sheds? Here's an appalling fact: I don't always vacuum before people come over here for dinner. I know! But they seem to have a good time anyway, and they keep coming back, most of them. It helps if the food is good, but it's not crucial.

Which brings me to tip 1b: YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO COOK ALL THAT WELL TO HAVE PEOPLE OVER. Hell, you don't even have to cook at all. I've had people here a number of times where all I did was pick up a Costco pizza, throw a bunch of blankets on the floor and watch movies with people and their offspring.

The Lavengoods. And Pootie. Not a one of these people except Pootie could be called introverted. Not by a mile.

Heck, I even got kahunas big enough to invite two chefs for dinner. Now they are semi-regulars. I figured they'd had mediocre food before - it wouldn't kill them. Besides, ply them with enough booze and it makes dinner taste that much better.

Marc, Pootie and Sara. Kind of half introverted, half extroverted, except for Pootie. Both chefs.
The main thing is, just DO it. Reach out. Invite your neighbor over for coffee and don't worry about the fact that your living room doesn't look like something out of Architectural Digest. Call that couple you met at the Christmas party, you know, the fun ones, and tell them to come over Saturday night and have a pot of white bean chili with you.

Yeah, these guys. Jenn and David. DEFINITELY not introverted.

Except actually, not those guys. Because they'll be over here having dinner.

Introverts. I'm talking to you. Do it. Call someone. Bring 'em in and feed them. Take some very bad pictures of them and share. As one of Your People, I can tell you that it may make you tense. It may make you tired. But trust me, you need it. And sometimes, so do they.

And it's never bothered Dinky much, either.

"Chicks dig me. They always have."

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