My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes.
We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure.
I’m white woman raised by a former debutante. My racist Southern grandma ran a charm school. As liberated as my mother tried to be, she was still stuck on Rules of Acceptable Female Behavior.
One such rule was “Be an Exemplary Hostess.” When friends came over, they got first pick of snacks, toys, and sleeping bags. They chose the games we played.
When my parents entertained, we children took coats. We handed around hors d’ oeuvres. We got adults drinks. If there was a shortage of chairs, we offered our seats to adults and took the floor. We cleared the table and did the dishes, too. My mother took immense pride in the praise guests heaped upon her for her adorable little helpers.
She shared their praise with us. And since we were many, and desperate for attention, we got a little warped.
I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.
If I had known that buying a new house would inspire inspired a visit from Andy’s parents, I’d have barricaded myself into our old townhouse for life. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to keep them away if we ever had a son (hence my ongoing lobbying to adopt a little girl from China), but I had no idea a new house would be such a draw. Given my father-in-law’s obsession with photos of the house, I should have known what would happen.
When I see hashtags, I think of home improvement. Maybe it’s because social media really took off the year that we worked on our new house. Suddenly # was no longer “the pound sign” on the landline phones of my youth (remember, I’m old). Instead, it became a marker that people used to look up conversations/ events on Twitter, or #CatsofInstagram.
I’m not very handy. I’m super competent, yes, in small ways: I can change a tire, hang pictures, put up window treatments, paint, tape trim, move spiders outside, clean lint out of the dryer vent, plunge a toilet, and get plant cuttings to root.
But Do It Yourself projects? Uh, no. I didn’t even know what studs were until I met Andy. (Yes, ha, and yes, true.) DIY scares me, probably because my father’s efforts at anything beyond caulking involved profanity and fears of an untimely death. Continue reading Demolition Man (#142)