Parties are not at the top of my to-do list. Photo & photo design courtesy Cynthia Lively,

Aug 6, 2014–

I hate parties.

More accurately, I hate the concept of parties.

You go to a place you don’t want to be; to eat food you don’t like; with people you don’t want to talk to.

Being at a party makes me feel as if I am performing. You are carrying on a conversation with one individual, while four strangers stand there gawking. That’s how I imagine it would feel starring in an adult film: the experience would be more enjoyable if the camera wasn’t there.

Then there’s the food.

Eggnog. Need I say more? If eggnog is such a treat, why do we drink it only one day a year? Same with mincemeat pie. Or stupid little crackers that break when you try to scoop up cream cheese covered in jalapeno jelly? Or bacon-wrapped anything? We don’t wrap our Pop-Tarts or refried beans in bacon–why is pork meat put with everything at a party?

And the hurt feelings of the hosts.

Everyone has been here. The hostess presents her prize dish. It could be Waldorf Cake or 3-Bean Salad or Veal Parmesan. For religious or dietetic or low-carb reasons, someone at the party cannot eat it. Can you say, “No thank you?” NO! There has to be a dance around the issue, where you beg off because of some “medical” reason, or you take the offending portion and wrap it in a napkin and stick it in your pocket. It’s just more punishment for accepting that invitation.

I know I am not alone in my ambivalence to dinner parties. The custom when I lived in an American enclave overseas was to attend weekly get-togethers with other expatriate families. These were all-evening affairs, starting with cocktails and conversation, then a three-course meal, followed by sitting around “visiting.”

One evening I found myself stuck in a pedestrian party with well-meaning but unengaging people. In a moment of blinding clarity, I decided my time was too valuable to share in such numbing company. So as soon as the meal finished, I went up to the hostess, thanked her, and excused myself. As I strolled home I felt so free! I had reached an epiphany–I controlled my minutes. Why hand over four hours of my life to anyone with a stamp and engraved invitation?

A few days later I bumped into the hostess at another function. “Phil,” she said. “I’m so sorry you had to leave early the other night. Because after you left, the party quickly broke up.”

That told me that everyone else was looking for an excuse to leave too. Just no one wanted to be first.

So far this has only been about being a guest. Do I even need to discuss the downside of hosting? How anyone gets pleasure out of letting 30 strangers into their home without a warrant is beyond me. It means days of sweeping, dusting, dicing things, bribing the kids, and hiding the dirty laundry–basically making your house look like no one lives there.

My strategy?

When people come to my house, I tell them–there’s the kitchen, there’s the bedroom, there’s the bathroom. Make them yours.

I’m not going to wait on you, clean up after you, or entertain you. When you’re hungry, eat. Tired, sleep. Bored? Well, figure it out. I’m never going to be responsible for your happiness.

Besides, the best parties are not planned. They just happen.

A group gathers almost accidentally on some flimsy premise. Then things happen. Sometimes, magical things happens.

But when you try to do it again, you can never recapture that lightning. A “2nd Annual” anything never holds the joy of the first.

So if you want your next party to be a success, don’t invite me.

Because I might show up.