The idea of being invited around to someone’s house for dinner? What is that? Not me. I don’t know how to be a guest as someone’s house. It’s not what I was brought up into. The idea of entertaining people or being entertained, where entertain means to host, is not something I am used to. I did not grow up in a house where a bed was ever used to store a selection of coats while people dined and so-on downstairs.
That is what I might write if I was someone else. As if I was to say it applied to me I would be lying. Of course I know what it is like to go around to someone else’s house or have people around to my house. Why, I must have done it over TWENTY times. (The bit about it not happening when I was young is true, though not necessarily relevant. I just liked the line about a bed never being used to store coats. Big fur coats, smelling of strong perfumes – definitely.)
More often than not, when I have done it as an adult I have done it as the partner of the person who is actually invited. I don’t want to make out that I am some difficult outsider figure. I am just pathetically un-evolved socially.
I was delighted at the invite I received from a colleague to join her and her family for tea while I was alone for the weekend. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to take. You take things when people have you as a guest don’t you? I’ve seen it on the television. And girlfriends have arranged it when I’ve arrogantly thought that my personality gracing a room for a couple of hours was enough of a gift to any host. Of course the fact that I am rarely invited back to these places clearly indicated that the gift of my personality was shaming people. He gives too much, when all we offer him is food people clearly thought. We are ashamed and he imbalance means we cannot repeat this.
But a series of coaching sessions, self-help books and a Lego-based philosophy harem repaired this mistaken thinking. This doesn’t answer the question of what I am supposed to take, though. It clearly comes down to one of flowers, chocolates or a container of alcohol.
I had reasons for all three being things I might not like to do:
- Flowers: I didn’t want flowers on my desk for the afternoon. Being the butt of the same daft remarks from twelve-to-seventeen people doesn’t appeal to me. Especially when half of them wouldn’t make sense (“oh, are you going to a flower show?) There was also that I was meeting my colleague’s husband to get a lift to their house. And I didn’t want to stand around with a bunch of flowers to stand and wait for a man. There: I said it.
- Alcohol: Do you get what you want? Do you ask what you’re eating and find out what wine is appropriate? Do you ignore what is being eaten and just take white wine because you don’t like red wine? Do you not take alcohol because YOU aren’t drinking that much at the moment and YOU are a selfish fuck?
- Chocolate: Do people want chocolate? Are some chocolates acceptable anyway? If you take something like a box of Celebrations are you mistaking someone’s house for a department at work in the run-up to Christmas?
I did consider the idea of just getting a bag of household goods. My girlfriend didn’t think it was a terrible idea but she would like it if someone gave her a carrier bag of soap powder, cheese, some pens, 6 bananas, margarine and a pipe of Pringles. Oh, how much respect I have for the paradigm of things to give people when you’re a dinner guest. And I thought I was someone who grow up and challenge the norms.
In the end I chose chocolate. But this wasn’t the end of my troubles. Neglecting the choices of your run of the mill selections I eschewed Cadbury’s Heroes and Mars’ rival Celebrations. I also quickly rejected the option of Milk Tray, because it wasn’t 1988. Some Thornton’s caught my eye.
A nice array of Thorntons chocolates and truffles. Then I noticed they were branded for Christmas. Not in a vulgar way. This was Thorntons after all. At this point I should point out that I am quite working class so I think Thorntons represents some kind of confectionary nirvana, a shop people might save up for several months to shop at. But, as I say, the box was branded with a Christmas tree. And (I assume) because of this it had been reduced.
Fortunately my dilemma was averted when I noticed some other Thorntons chocolates that weren’t branded or reduced. Phew. This box contained half that of the ‘Christmas’ box – and was more expensive. Perfect. This would stop me looking cheap, which is of course all that matters.
It is acceptable for my pride to mean that someone receiving a gift from me gets less of a gift surely?
I have tried to represent this with the below combination of a bar graph and a Venn diagram. However, I outsourced it to a firm of analysts who have only sent me the graphics and not an explanation. And they have all since forgotten any skills in the field because of ‘really liking other things’ (thanks to the comp slip included with the disc I received with the below image on it).
I am sure you are all very interested that the chocolates were well-received and I had a spiffing time. In fact I was smiled at a by a baby and a two-year-old warmed to me. Meaning it is not all small females who dislike me and just the few who do who must specifically hate me. Thank God for that I thought I was being paranoid about the thoughts of beings who haven’t really developed concepts and rationale and such.