When we first got married I was so excited to do EVERYTHING together. I couldn’t wait. I worked at a coffee shop and I told a friend of mine that I was even going to start working with Graham (as a self-employed window washer). “This is a terrible idea.” he said.
I’m not sure if it was my inability to clean things, or the fact that I wanted to spend 24 hours a day with only one person that tipped him off.
I pictured Graham and I sipping caramel mochas squeegeeing side by side – deep in conversations about life. My friend was definitely wrong. This was going to be the best. thing. ever.
My window career lasted exactly one day. It turned out Graham mostly wanted to work.
Along with not being able to have a joint-career, it became clear that although we were each others best-friends-forever – we were going to kill each other if we didn’t find OTHER friends. The problem was, we were very uncertain on how to find these friends. We weren’t sure where they were, how to meet them, or how to talk to them once we met them.
About five years and three kids into marriage, we realized that these mysterious soul mates were not going to magically appear. We were going to have to find them. So, we decided to make Friday nights our having-people-over-night. On this night, we would be very mature and grownup by feeding and talking to adults. We would have to wear pants. We would need to clean our sinks. It was going to be great.
The first Friday night we were terrified. I started cleaning and cooking at 7:30 in the morning because I was certain I was already running out of time. We cursed ourselves for thinking of such an awful idea like “having people over”. WHAT were we thinking? We fought. I cried. We were certain we were coming down with something…like the REAL influenza probably.
But then we did it…and we survived.
We even more than survived…it was kind of wonderful. We lounged on the couch after our new friends went home feeling full and more connected than we had in a long time. WE. DID. IT.
That was five years ago. Hosting still freaks me out sometimes, but now I know what’s on the other side of my fear: connection and belonging. It is hard to pursue friendship, especially when you’re busy with work, life, and kids – but it is possible, and it is worth it.
Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way:
Just start. We did once a week. You could decide on once or twice a month if thats sounds more doable. Whatever you do…start. Ignore your insecurity and the sometimes awkward “first dates”. Keep at it, it will be worth it.
It is normal to be scared. That urge to cancel and binge watch Elementary instead? That’s probably fear – and it’s NORMAL. The people coming over? They’re probably nervous too. It’s not a sign you aren’t cut out for this – it’s a sign you are adulting. You are being brave and taking a risk. GO YOU.
Hide your mess. I have what I call a mess room. Some people might only need a closet…I need a room. My pre-hosting routine includes gathering all the shit, throwing it into said room…and locking the door behind me. My mother-in-law (who is my host-spiration) has an epic story about how she used to hide her bills and papers inside a stove…until one day she forgot and set it all on fire. So don’t do that.
Or maybe do. It would take a lot off your plate.
Food & Wine. I think the key to hosting comes down to good food and drink…it makes people happy. Now before you give yourself an aneurysm over an Ina Garten recipe…”good” doesn’t HAVE to mean complicated and fancy. Comfort food is often cheap and easy. Potato soup with crusty bread? Crock pot pulled pork and slaw? BOX BROWNIES?? I say yes, yes, and yes.
Don’t be perfect. It’s not possible anyway, so relax. How many perfect, flawless friends would you like? I would like zero of those. You don’t need to perform – you need to be you. Be authentic and you will find the people that love you without requiring a performance.
Make it work with kids. Now is not the time to show off how little screen time your kids have. Put on a movie, appease them with snacks…or have friends over after they’re in bed. Make it work.
Get good at asking questions. One of my number one concerns with having people over was: I’m not that cool or interesting. What if they do not like me??? Good news: you don’t have to talk about yourself for two hours, and actually, no-one wants you to. Get good at asking questions and listening. It is such a gift when someone is sincerely interested in who you are. Get good at giving that gift away.
Get out a game of cards. Games are an excellent way to take the pressure off of everyone to talk. I notice that people almost immediately relax and start teasing each other when you get out a game.
Think of it like dating. Enjoy sharing meals with lots of different people. Be brave, invite people over that you really like, but intimidate you. Sometimes it will just be one meal. Other times you will want to move them into your spare room and keep them forever.
Graham and I have connected with so many wonderful people, and over time we have found our people. These people are treasures and we wouldn’t be the same without them. They come over in sweat pants and send us hilarious, inappropriate memes. We eat together, we pray together, we celebrate engagements and babies together. We go on trips and we love each others’ kids like we love our own.
We are more whole and alive because of them…and it all started with just one dinner invitation.
Cheers friend…to messy rooms, box brownies, and friendship.