Several months ago I agreed to host a party in New York for a friend's college reunion. This is the sort of thing that sounds easy at the time, when the calendar is empty, but then, suddenly, the day arrives, and panic sets in. I’m not prepared, because the party rental company sent the wrong supplies, the sort of thing that would send The Blushing Hostess into a dead faint: polyester napkins so slippery they wouldn’t stay on a lap, much less pick crumbs off one’s lips; dinner plates chipped and cracked; forks so lightweight that the tines were bent. Everything will be fine, it always is, but meantime, the hostesses cannot get here because of the Iceland ash. The friend for whom I am doing this favor seems to have disappeared as well. Carry on.
The dark clouds were parted by the (unintentionally) hilarious string of emails that arrived this morning, attached to a request to join tonight’s festivities. I gather the writers are young women, as they are class of this century. Only a bit older than my children. “It would be lovely to join. If so, is there anything I could bring? Also, I hope it’s not too much trouble but I do not eat meat or shellfish.” This last bit gave me pause. Enough of my friends are vegetarian that I’m always prepared, but this seemed a tad much. I read on.
“I just emailed them….and told them I was veggie. And it’s free--bonus!”
This is when I perked up, realizing I was eavesdropping on an email exchange between two friends. Delicious. I had wandered into Barbara Pym territory.
I dropped down to the bottom of the string, where it all began. “Some posh girl is hosting the grads' party….how often do I get to see a giant pad… I think it will be rather surreal… maybe good to network though I guess I’m not sticking along that long… if you fancy it let me know!”
So are you staying for dinner, or not? Because I’m counting napkins. I have never set eyes on your school, this isn’t my apartment (I rent it from my friend, and though it isn’t giant, I do think it is stunningly beautiful). Must I always worry about disappointing? I’m afraid the only surreal touch will be the tines of the forks pointing in the wrong direction. Why on earth don’t I own forty of everything? Perhaps a door charge might be a good idea…Happily, though, a generous alum donated vats of champagne. I will have to uncork a bottle to test it.
The exchange continued:
“Sounds pretty amusing--so why not. I’m assuming it’s not for Zachary as well (I’m not sure he’d be particularly excited about it anyway.)”
Zachary? I haven’t got enough napkins.
“An informal dinner, whatever that means...I was just going to wear something vaguely smart….you could always ask if Zachary wants to come?!”
not to eat meat or shellfish. And always leave unwilling Zacharys home.
This exchange provides an excellent life lesson in networking, no matter how long you intend to stick around (but do let me know, as I haven’t got enough plates either): Look both ways before hitting SEND. Cheers!