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.
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?