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I am part geisha girl, part drill sergeant, with just a soupçon of control freak thrown in for good measure. I want everyone to relax and have a good time, but that has to start with me, and I'm about as laid-back as a caged hummingbird guzzling a can of Red Bull while awaiting biopsy results. You can keep your meditation, your reflexology, your gin, your tonics—I'm just not the mellow type.

I approach a petite Jewish woman from the Midwest to figure out when this started. "Mom, have I always been a perfectionist?"

She attempts diplomacy. "Well, let me put it this way—you used to like to dress up in my clothes when you were maybe 3 or 4 years old."

"What does that prove? Lots of little girls play dress-up."

"True," she says, "but you tried to bulldoze Grandma into tailoring the clothes to actually fit you."

"Well, excuse me for realizing that a skirt should hit just above my knee." We are quiet for a minute. "So how do you throw a really fun party?" She reminds me that they used to hire Magical Marv for my birthdays. I remind her that Magical Marv chain-smoked and seemed to hate children.

"Yes, that's what your dad and I always liked best about him," she deadpans. "Anyway, the only thing I know about giving a party is that we can never get the extra leaf into the dining table and I usually forget to serve one of the side dishes."

This leads me to a new theory: "Maybe bad parties are hereditary, like green eyes and diabetes," I say to Johannes.

"Okay, that's it," he announces, grabbing the phone. Before I can lunge at him, he has dialed our neighbors Paul and Cheryl and invited them to come for dinner "in about 15 minutes."

"Are you insane?" I shriek as I stuff everything littering the floor and coffee table under the sofa. "This is grounds for divorce," I bellow, only to be reminded that we never got married. "That's because I don't know how to throw a wedding," I hiss as I pull off my stained Sunday night yoga pants and rummage through the laundry bag for my slightly less stained Saturday afternoon yoga pants, marveling all the while at the fact that I don't do yoga.

Needless to say, Cheryl and Paul are four minutes early. "Hey, guys, can I offer you..." I do a quick scan of the refrigerator, "a dollop of mayonnaise?" I have hit rock bottom. Somewhere Martha Stewart hangs her head in shame. Johannes gives me a hug. There is no place to go but up. Our neighbors split a diet Snapple, we order in Thai food and proceed to talk and laugh and pass chicken satay for three straight hours.

What can I say? It is, to date, our most successful dinner party.

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