Entertaining: Obligations and Expectations

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • I would love to be the kind of person who entertains easily, the kind who invites the neighborhood for a barbecue in the summer, or friends for a candlelight dinner on a Saturday night. I would look forward to selecting the menu, doing the shopping, and preparing special dishes. I would enlist Adrian’s help and together we would have fun putting together some appetizers and choosing the appropriate wine. When the guests arrived, I would greet them warmly and relax into the occasion, enjoying the conversation, the atmosphere, and the food. Entertaining would come easily and naturally, so that by now, after living in Ithaca for six years, we would have a large group of friends and neighbors we enjoyed on a regular basis.
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    That never happened. Why not?

    Inviting people to dinner makes me anxious and depressed. I suffer for days in advance, and go to ridiculous lengths to make sure the event is a success. I have such incredible performance anxiety that I make too much food and then micromanage the evening from start to finish. If there is a lull in the conversation, I panic.

    This summer I had planned to cook a meal for the five families who live in our immediate neighborhood. We’ve lived here a year now, and it seemed like this was the right time. Yet it is the middle of August and I’ve done nothing about it. Just contemplating such an event makes my chest tight and my stomach tense.

    Am I demanding too much of myself? Is it OK to tell people who invite us for dinner that we won’t be inviting them back?

    The only thing worse, actually, than entertaining ourselves, is when we have to go to a dinner party at someone else’s house. Adrian has social anxiety, so he’s a basket case at the event. I have performance anxiety, so I’m a basket case a week before the event.

    Why can’t people just drop in on us at the spur of the moment? I could be charming and gracious then, because it wouldn’t matter if the house was messy or I didn’t have the perfect food and wine prepared.

    Is it OK at this point in my life, to just admit I’m a hermit and let it go at that? Or do I have to keep suffering in an attempt to be normal?

    Share your experiences with anxiety about entertaining in the message boards.
Published On: August 25, 2006