Just Come Over - The Art of Gritty Hospitality

I hate traveling, but I love learning about other cultures, and I LOVE friends from other continents and countries. I am drawn to their courage and grit for moving so far from home, and I love hearing their perspectives on how we live. So many say how very lonely it is in the US. How isolated. How we all live walled up and closed off. And you know what? I see it too.

Instead of actually being in one another’s lives, we just try to produce short plays, such as “The Morning Playdate,” a lovely one-act where bagels are served and everyone’s kids are well behaved and we talk about house renovations. Or “The Dinner With Husbands,” in which a forced and awkward evening is spent over pasta and garlic bread and everyone’s kids eat nicely and don’t throw noodles with red sauce under the table. And so, if you’re a regular kind of person who gets exhausted by the thought of producing a perfect event, you just don’t really have anyone over. It’s just too much work.

There are some incredible writers who talk so beautifully about hospitality – that beautiful, homey word that means “having people over.” They write about crunchy farmer’s market vegetables and creamy soups and lovely linen tablecloths – and they post pictures of people seated at a farmhouse table in a dreamy backyard lit with twinkle lights. They publish recipes that feature home grown peaches and fresh picked blackberries and invite readers to gather, and love, and live together.

But you know what we need to read more about? Gritty hospitality. “Just come over” hospitality. This kind has paper plates and snotty kids and half eaten bags of baby carrots. It has too small living rooms and cramped kitchens and bagged salads from Aldi. It has dust in the corners and toothpaste spots on the sink. “Just come over” hospitality sometimes means an amazing meal, but never expectations. It means being honest – “I have cheese and tortillas in the house but that’s about it – what can you bring?”

Here are a few quick ways to start practicing “just come over” hospitality - to start actually living life with other women and not just staging events.

·         Let the silence fall.

The quickest way to make things weird is to make people feel like they have to be talking all the time. Let a moment be quiet. Have everyone help with dinner, with the clean-up, and with entertaining the kids – and don’t feel like you have to be talking constantly. Doing life with people is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll have plenty of time.

·         Parent your children in front of other women.

If you discipline your kid in front of another woman – you’re for real. No games here. If we’re going to do our lives together, we’re going to have to see each other parent. Just do it. Do what you usually do, and what you think is right. You’re busting down all the walls and letting her see that you want her to do the same.

·         Let everyone help. A lot.

I used to try to just let friends sit on the couch while I did all the dinner work, cleaning, and kid wrangling. Now, I say, “Yes, you can help; will you make this guacamole? Also, here are the plates; will you give all the kids some carrots and grapes?” It immediately makes everyone relax. We’re serious here about actually being friends, not just getting through the meal. Also, everyone is eating, so everyone should be helping.

·         Carry on with your daily chores.

If you have people over and you need to throw in a load of laundry, DO IT. If people are hanging out at your house and you forgot to pay the cable bill and you need to call, just say, “Hey, I gotta call Comcast before I forget – back in a second.” If everything else has to freeze every time you’re hanging out with friends, then you’ll never have time for friends.

We think of community, of seeing and talking and living with other people, as this sort of add-on. It’s an extra, if we have time. But it’s the stuff that literally keeps us alive. We need to talk, to eat, to BE with other human beings every day. Start now. Be the first to say, “Just come over.”

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My mission is to help make it exciting and simple for women to build community. Want to learn more practical ways to make your tribe?