Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holiday Tip #1: Invite The Ones That Matter

Oh Martha Stewart, arrogantly staring at me while seated in a perfectly themed dining room, your hair and table flawlessly set. I've come to terms with the fact that my home will never look like yours. I have neither the panache nor the patience to create such an oasis of "holidayness." And even if I did, and pictures were taken for Good Housekeeping, the inevitable dog with it's front paws on the counter would have to be photo-shopped out.

I can, however, win at one aspect of the game. My family gatherings are more fun. That's right, I just issued a direct challenge to Martha Stewart. I bet my dinner parties are more fun than yours, Martha.

I understand this is a lofty challenge for a financially struggling college student to extend to the domestic diva of the universe. My recipes are less extravagant (fruit salad), my decorations are all but nonexistent (paper plates), and the seating is, shall we say, extremely sparse. That crooked futon in the corner? Go for it. Just know it broke a few months ago during an intense game of "drink the beer and jump on the futon", and I "fixed" it ten minutes before you came over, so it could technically collapse at any second. Consider yourself warned.

The reason for my confidence in the entertainment value of these shindigs is that I have something up my sleeve that Martha does not: a built in sacrificial lamb. Granted my brother now lives 8 hours away, but he is still present at most family occasions.

I'll give you an example.

A few years ago, my brother, his wife, my mom, my boyfriend, and about 5 of my roommates/friends all gathered in our "cozy" duplex for Thanksgiving dinner. It was quite a mismatched group; my family having never met my friends and some of my friends having never even met each other. Needless to say, in a room filled with unfamiliarity, there was some noticeable tension.

Now before we go too much further it is absolutely vital you know this next bit of information: my favorite dish at Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter), is the yams. My mom makes them loaded with brown sugar and butter and covered with ooey gooey roasted marshmallows. They are a dieter's catastrophe waiting to happen, but once or twice every year I throw caution to the wind and eat them for the main course and desert. And I never, ever regret it.

So on this day, as we were filling up our plates, one of my friends looked at the yams and inquired what was on the top. I told her, "Marshmallows. Try them. Thank me later."

"Oh!" she replied. "I didn't know what they were! They look so soft and round like little...."


Silence. My brother waited for her reply. It was a reasonable question.

"Actually I was going to say 'clouds', " she said. "But those work too I guess."

"Clouds are good. Boobs are better. Can you pass the salt? This turkey looks delicious."

This, ladies and gents, is my brother at his finest. A small-time comedian, he has an innate ability to transform any marginally uncomfortable situation into his gloriously awkward masterpiece. His natural talent for seeking out the perfect moment to insert an inappropriate comment is criticized by some, but deeply appreciated by others. I am on the side of appreciation.

I feel incredibly fortunate for my brother's sense of humor. Not the spotlight stealer or offensive clown that some may liken him to, he is one of the most caring, self-sacrificing people I know. While on the surface these comments may seem offensive, they're actually the nicest thing a person can do at a family gathering.

Think about it. How awkward are these things? Who isn't self-conscious? How many of us have found ourselves deep in thought, just praying for time to move at a more merciful pace? Avoid politics, avoid religion. Laugh at jokes, agree with Grandma. Check, check, check and check.

My brother takes it upon himself to relieve this unspoken mind-numbing tension. Who is going to remember the gravy you spilled in your lap when earlier someone compared marshmallows to the female bosom? The stress of the occasion is taken out, and people can open up and enjoy themselves.

Personally, I find it even more enjoyable when done in extremely formal occasions. His brilliant deadpan comments make my heart leap with laughter every time. There is truly nothing quite like studying the look on someone's face as they attempt to explain the secret to their infamous potato casserole when they're clearly still thinking of the comment he made 20 minutes ago about "effin' a kiwi".

So my penniless companions, if I have learned anything about entertaining (and I haven't learned much), I say make the guest list the utmost priority. I'm sure Martha throws some amazing dinner parties, but given the choice, I would rather her attend one of mine instead of the other way around. Yes her unblemished silverware would be stunning and her full-course menu delectable, but the look on her face when my brother breaks the ice with his first improper remark? Absolutely priceless.


  1. An excellent option. That sounds like a great dinner party, and that's before the marshmellows arrive. My brother is far too straight down the line for that sort of thing, but last time I invited a cousin (who doesn't drink) who proceeded to get very drunk, wish everybody Happy Christmas, Hanukah and Easter (it was September) and hug as many people as possible. That seemed to solve the problem :)

  2. I'd like to invite your brother to some of the dinner parties we have here. He sounds like a terrific ice-breaker. And apologies for what you dealt with earlier. I have no idea what that was about. x

  3. ps if you have time can you email me? The email addy is on my blog (contact me) section x

  4. I'm pretty sure I should be on the guest list for both the next dinner party, and the next drink the beer and jump on the futon party. Maybe we could do it all in one night. AND...I could bring the karaoke machine...we could sing Delta Dawn.......

  5. I'm loving your posts! Thank you for keeping me laughing while I make a vague attempt to stay focused at work.

  6. I sooo want to come to your place for the holidays!

  7. Brothers are the BEST, aren't they? Mine always makes both the good and bad times better.

  8. i got up this morning and my wife...lisa... told me to come and read your blog...before i'd even got my coffee...soooooo i read it and laughed along the are good at this blog thing...keep it up we look forward to see what comes next...

  9. Aww thanks for the comments everyone, brothers ARE the best! Tony I'm sorry for the delay of your coffee, but I'm glad I made you laugh (thanks for the push, Lisa!)

    light208 you cracked me up with that one!

    Ha and Lani, "drink the beer and jump on the futon" is a highly skilled game, maybe we can practice and be ready by Christmas?? ;)

    Thanks Alyssa and Sarah!

    Oh and hey Sarah, did you happen to get my email?


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