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Let's Have Party! Oh Yes, Let's Do

May 27, 2014 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

I'm no Martha Stewart, but I do enjoy hosting parties.

In this post I won't be addressing the early parties of my career, the St. Fitzpatrick's Day parties in our apartments, the memories of which convince me that I can't host a St. Patrick's Day party - or a party in the entire month of March for that matter - at my age. If it's possible to die of an overdose of alcohol, green food coloring and underreacting to a cigarette burn on a coffee table, that would be me. When a death certificate lists the cause of death as being a dumbass it's embarrassing.

Those were years when I didn't think to work ahead in my party hosting tasks. One year, my friends Barb and Bob arrived at the party and I was frying bacon for the tops of the potato skins I was serving. Frying the bacon, the most do-aheadable party task, when the guests were starting to arrive. Man, I was a dumbass; not life-threateningly, but a dumbass all the same.

Fortunately, those years went by quickly. I got better at throwing parties. I poured over the Bon Appetit magazine's featured party, a real-life party thrown by "regular" people in their tropical backyards or 19th century living rooms or 6-bedroom cottages in the Hamptons, or their Upper West Side penthouse apartments in New York. The food, as other-wordly as it was, was the least impressive thing about these parties. All the female guests dressed in coordinating colors, the men all had to wear either bow ties or pastel pants, the linens were imported, and I never saw a single swingset in any of those backyards.

So when I got a new issue of Bon Appetit, I would scrape together whatever a mortal like me could use from the featured party. Can't have all the women wear different colored pastel Size 2 sleeveless dresses. Biker friends would never comply . . . Can't serve drinks in Waterford crystal because I've broken all but one of each of anything glass that I got as a wedding gift . . . Forget the Terrine de Foie Gras because one of my friends is against torturing ducks . . . Scratch the yule log because one of my sisters would call it poop and everyone would laugh and our cheap beverages would spurt out of people's noses.

I might get one tiny recipe or centerpiece idea every month.

Then I was asked to host a party for my husband's department. My role was awkward, because the party was at my house, I was officially the host, but his company was paying for the food. I always - before and since - made my own party food. But this one time, I let a small group of women from the company choose the caterer and pay for other people's food to be served at my house. I wasn't paying for it, but the party was going to be a reflection of me, my home, and my party-giving chops. I was determined to make it, if not Bon Appetit worthy, at least not something that could be a spoof of a Bon Appetit featured party.

The awkwardness began when the party planning committee wanted us to drink wine out of tiny plastic wine glasses, and ended when they suggested that we had to have a table and chair place for every guest to eat their hors de ouvres.

"Not unless they're 70 or older," my experienced caterer friend Terri said. I had called her half in tears, half steamed that my Bon Appetit-fueled party planning had been dissed all over.

So I held my ground. Using Terri as my expert source, I told the party planning committee we were going to drink out of real glass and we were going to force everyone to "mill about" while they ate. I bought 60 glass wine glasses with coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond. I set up small stand-around tables all over the house and told people to drink, eat and be merry, but do it standing up.

At the point of the party where I walked into the kitchen and saw the party planning women sitting at my kitchen table with their whipped husbands, all seated around like the Waltons, it's fortunate that I was on my fourth glass of wine, or I might have said, "Hey, while you're in here, could you finish frying that bacon?"

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. Her Just Humor Me column runs here on her website at


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