May 18th, 2021 12:00am
“Guest stress syndrome.” It almost sounds made-up, like some pseudo=medical pretext for an underlying desire to stay in bed and binge-watch Netflix all day—“Sorry, I have to cancel; I’ve come down with a dreadful case of guest stress syndrome.” But anxiety about hosting company that goes well beyond a lack of zeal is, in fact, very real. The high expectations we have for ourselves and others may have for us can give us a terrible fear of failing to meet those expectations, and then we miss out on the joys of hosting, entertaining, and gathering with friends. Overcoming your fear of entertaining will allow you to put these concerns aside and prevent you from developing a fear of missing out. Here’s how.
Having a dinner party doesn’t have to mean planning an elaborate multi-course dinner. You’re among friends; no one’s expecting you to present them with French haute cuisine if this isn’t a skill you’ve demonstrated before. Don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations for preparing the meal. In fact, if you don’t relish cooking at all, convert your party to a potluck dinner to spread cooking responsibilities across your guest list. Just make sure to have a few key contributions of your own.
Consider how annoyed you get when you wake up in the morning, walk into the kitchen, and find a few dirty dishes piled in the sink. The thought of a whole mountain of dirty dishes is too much to bear. It’s often the thought of the messy post-party responsibilities that dissuades many people from hosting the festivities themselves. Make life easier after the guests have gone home by switching to disposable dinnerware for quick and simple cleanup.
Bearing the responsibility—or believing one must bear the responsibility—of keeping everyone socially engaged makes the introverted among us dread having company. Don’t take it entirely upon yourself to get the conversations going when there are so many board games specially designed to provide a little social lubrication at parties. The best games allow interactions to grow organically and extemporaneously, meaning that you won’t have to subject your guests to a painfully obvious attempt at structured fun.
The trope of the meticulously judgmental mother-in-law is a pernicious one. You needn’t live in fear that your guests are examining every surface for single specks of dust. The key to overcoming your fear of entertaining is to remember that your guests, whether they’re mothers-in-law or not, are far more forgiving than you may give them credit for. If you agonize over every single detail before and during your party, you’ll likely be the only one doing it.