I got 99 problems – and dishes are number one

Before I begin, I’d like to preface by adding that I dreamed I wrote this post.

Well, actually, it was more along the lines of: I had just prayed fajr and wanted to go back to sleep; but in between that wanting-to-sleep and unfortunately-I’m-awake zone we all tussle with each morning, I started writing out my anxieties in my head.

I practically dreamed it, okay?

Lately, my number of volunteer commitments has gone up – and along with it, my level of anxiety. I love it when people ask me if I’m stressed. I’m like, “You should be more concerned if I said I was not stressed about something.” It’s not that my life is any busier than an average North American living in the 21st century, but I do have anxieties that I would guess most do not.

Since we’ve moved into our house late last year, it’s been on my mind the number of couples Mr. Rafia and I MUST have over for dinner. I feel like I’ve leached off of our friends’ kindness for far too long. I’m starting to think that our friends may be thinking we’re holding someone hostage in our non-existent attic and basement (Richard Simmons? No, sadly, I do not have him).

But the truth is, I’m stressed as heck at the prospect of hosting a dinner party. Hosting is so not my personality. The only reason I’m having this conversation with myself is because of guilt. My parents taught me by example that it’s better to give than to take. The problem is: What if what you have to give just plain sucks? To cook for others and have to be all host-y? How would I even go about doing that?

I always dreaded my parents’ what-seemed-like weekly dinner parties. My parents were such good hosts, too, and it was expected that their children would put on a face and not bring the family name down by being their usual selves. My brother and me anyway. I suppose it wasn’t such a stretch for my sister, who has followed in my parents’ footsteps – in fact, rivaling their hosting skills. My mom was/is a great cook. But my sister is an artiste.

dinnerparty
Granted, my sister did this for my bridal shower and not just any dinner party. But her usual dinner party arrangements aren’t that much different.

I like to marvel at nice decor, but I am happy with just marveling. I don’t care enough to actually do it myself. Further evidence can be found in our house, which is as bare bones as you can imagine. And I’m honestly okay with that. I really, really hate dusting.

And cooking. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. I did get into the whole “I’m going to cook for my husband” thing for about a month or so after we first got married. But now that I’m no longer on Instagram, I see no point.

For serious though, I’ve figured out how to bake boneless chicken and with one or two exceptions, that’s all I’ve made for Mr. Rafia in the past few months. To be fair, he’s not eating carbs on purpose. But like, if I can’t make carb-laden dishes, there’s no joy in cooking.

Furthermore, cooking is still new for me. I never really cooked until I got married. I’m not confident in my ability to even microwave leftovers without some kind of mishap. I can’t in good faith (attempt to) make multiple dishes for people when I cannot guarantee they will even be edible. It’s bad enough when the one dish I do make for Mr. Rafia is all red with hot sauce by time it’s on his plate and ready to be eaten.

Whenever my parents would have anyone over, they’d always make a point to say “no formalities” to their guests. But I knew that’s because it’s the gracious thing to say. The truth of the matter is, the house would be vacuumed twice, mopped, and broomed, two bottles of bleach would be used (instead of my dad’s usual one) to clean all the bathrooms and kitchen. My mom would start cooking days before, because each Hyderabadi dish she’d make would require at least one full day to prepare and cook. I’m pretty sure my dad had to give me a pep talk a few times beforehand that when people come over, I should smile and talk, offer to take their coats, be sure to help my mom and sister in the kitchen, and ask if the guests want chai after dinner. Pep talk might be putting it lightly. I was a very anti-social kid.

The fact is: these “no formality” dinners were the very epitome of formality. And I feel like I must follow in my parents’ footsteps, because I am after all, their daughter. To do any less would be dishonoring their good name. I would be dishonoring all of Hyderabad!!!!

It’s funny. Before marriage, I never thought along these lines. In many ways, I know I won’t be continuing many of the traditions that my parents followed and still do follow. But being a good host is one way in which I can continue their legacy – okay, they’re still alive, but you know what I mean. I want to take after the very many positive traits and characteristics of my parents, but I’m fighting this personal inertia. I guess what makes it even more of an existential crisis I’ve turned it into is that Mr. Rafia thinks I’m being very unnecessarily perfectionist about it all. No big deal. We should have them over sometime. We don’t need to buy more plates. We could use paper plates! 

Help me out, folks: Do you think hosting dinner parties is a rite of marriage? Is this a legitimate worry of mine? Is it okay that I’ve been married for 15 months and still have not had anyone over for dinner? Do you know of any pro bono therapists looking for new patients?

13 thoughts on “I got 99 problems – and dishes are number one”

  1. I totally understand wanting to continue your parents legacy, after all they’ve done for us..but I am not a hostess. Formality gives me a rash. My format of a dinner party would be inviting some friends over for pizza, chips, and soda. Then we’d probably watch something on TV or do the board game thing or just chill. That’s as fancy of a “dinner party” as I can throw. Why put yourself through an ordeal that you’re not comfortable with? I feel like guests will have more fun in an environment that’s catered for enjoyment, not expectation fulfillment. But that’s just me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think my husband would be okay with your idea of a dinner party. I would be too, don’t have to worry about food not tasting good. I guess, I just feel like since I’ve been fed by others, I must do the same. It’s like I’m taking and taking and not giving anything back in return. But you’re so right – it’s more important to cater to enjoyment rather than some crazy expectation I’ve put on myself. I’m glad you feel the same way as I do. Enjoy being a care-free single woman! ;)

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  2. I absolutely hate hosting….with a passion. The whole thing about being a gracious host, running around, preparing the house from top to bottom, preparing fancy meals, making small talk….OMG just thinking about it is giving me an anxiety attack. I’ve always admired people who have the skills for good hosting, and who actually enjoy it. I’m not one of them. Truth be told, I don’t actually like going to other people’s homes either so….yeah I’m slightly antisocial. We’re suppose to be receiving some visitors on the Weekend, and I’m already super stressed out about it.

    I’ve thought about what I would do if I ever find Mr. Geeky Muslim. Am I suddenly going to start entertaining and hosting as a couple? NOPE of course not, a leopard can’t change its spots after all. The solution I came up with is to take folks out to a fancy restaurant instead, where they can eat to their heart’s content without worrying about the bill. Another solution that came to mind (if the guests are people you know well and are confortable with) was using a good catering service. A lot of restaurant offer such services. That way no need to worry about cooking, you can just focus on setting up the table.

    As you can see my solutions are all about actually never having to set a foot in the kitchen since I don’t cook. But, I think at the end of the day it is about finding what works best for you and your hubby. Hosting shouldn’t be a source of anxiety or stress, and if it is there is no reason for you to put yourself through something that makes you that uncomfortable. Go with what is most comfortable and feasible for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OMG! I feel so much better after reading your comment. I think hosting is a talent, and perhaps it’s not one that all of us have been endowed with? I’m hoping and praying you’ll agree with me. Hehe. Going to others’ houses also makes me nervous. I’ve become more social lately, mostly because I kinda have to. I’ve been working from home for close to two years and it’s begun to drive me crazy. It was great in the beginning, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve learned that I might not be as asocial as I once thought.

      You’re so right about the leopard. Just because I’m married now, doesn’t mean I’ve all of a sudden become a different person. Also, I think the expectations dwindle with each generation. I’m also married to a really untraditional man – so why am I even doing this to myself?

      Thanks for those wonderful suggestions, Geeky! I like the catering idea a lot. I used to think that it was out of the question. But having to cook all those dishes is the biggest worry of mine. It’s much better to serve guests good food than trying to appease my ego. Cleaning, as much as I don’t love it, I can do. And as for entertaining, I can sit back, as my joker husband takes the lead there. I am more than okay with that. I feel so much better now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I think hosting is a talent, and perhaps it’s not one that all of us have been endowed with?”……Absolutely. Some of us just don’t have those talents :)

        I’m glad you find my suggestions helpful. Let me know how the catering idea works out.

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  3. Rafia about 50% of your anxiety can be removed if you do potlucks! Honestly the other day, I made the main dish and all my friends brought sides and desserts, we ate in paper plates, sat on a sheet in the middle of my living room and chilled. I think this generation should honor our parents hosting in terms of respecting our guest and making them feel welcome in their home. I never liked the “non formality, but actually really super formal” atmosphere, it always made me feel uncomfortable, so I make sure that my guests feel comfortable enough to be in chill mode when they come over. Especially young couples. When it comes to my parents or my in-laws coming over, I have a little more anxiety because they have way higher expectations. Just have fun with hosting, do a game night! It doesn’t have to be super formal!

    Love Faria

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    1. Hey, Faria! How are you, girl??? Thanks so much for commenting. You made my day!!! I think potlucks have forever been enshrined as bad in my mind, thanks to my parents who ABHORRED when people invited others to their home and made their guests make something. I kinda agree, especially if it’s the first time I’m having them over for dinner. We have a game though! We literally just went to Toys R Us two Fridays ago to get Taboo, so we’re slowly building up our reserve. I guess I need to get over these expectations I’ve created for myself. I just won’t tell my dad all the details ;)

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  4. “But now that I’m no longer on Instagram, I see no point.” – LOL. It is so opposite issue for me! I love to have guests, I love to cook for them even though I consider myself a novice. But not more than one family at a time. When I moved to Yanbu, I actually purchased all big size pots assuming we will have guests. But unfortunately, F is very recluse and never has any inclination to have anyone home. So I had to go get small pots – lol. When we had to meet other families, we fix a date and meet at a restaurant. If we are invited, we go but as I can’t invite them back, I plan and let them know beforehand that dinner is coming from my home – and I just go hand over the food. That just gives my “hosting” desires a little dope. :-) You don’t have to cook to have guest – if they are my best friends, I too would just go with some takeaways and movie night – nothing better than that.

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    1. Haha, that’s pretty funny. You’d love to host, but can’t. I suppose if I were confident in my cooking, I’d be less frightened to host people. But yesterday a couple-friends of ours had us over for cake and tea – it was store-bought too, but we had an amazing conversation on Islamic spirituality and the history of Christianity that I came away thinking, it doesn’t have to be about the food. Although, I will say, that was some GOOD cake I had last night! I enjoyed it way more than an actual meal. But that’s just me probably ;)

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