Neutralizing Obnoxious Party Guests
Lian Dolan, 38, learned her party-planning skills from her mother, who taught her that there is no such thing as too much ice. She recently inherited the mantle of the family Thanksgiving and the gravy boat to go with it. "I use a technique I call Do Not Respond (DNR). Want to badmouth the sweet potatoes or cousin Joey's fiancée? Go ahead, but you won't get an answer from me, not even a head nod. I simply stare back. For more out-of-control situations, I combine the DNR with the Pretend Not to Hear maneuver. Try this combo against crusty uncles whose taste for off-color jokes is surpassed only by their taste for scotch."
Sheila Dolan, 45, rarely stages parties because her tiny studio apartment does not allow for more than two adults at a time. As a result, she has committed herself to being the perfect Buffer Guest, willing to keep anyone's in-laws out of the turkey preparation. "Being the middle sister, my interest is always to redirect any show-boater in the room who might be taking the attention away from me. My method is Seduce and Destroy. First I shower the persona non grata with false kindness so that she hardly notices we are now discussing my life and my life only. Then I check her ego with this line: Excuse me, but a group of people just arrived who've been dying to meet me."
Picky Eaters, Monopolizers and Sticks-in-the-Mud
Monica Dolan, 43, appreciates attendees who arrive with entertaining stories and pretend not to notice her ill-behaved dog. Her least favorites? The Picky Eater, the Monopolizer, and the Stick-in-the-Mud. "I am not brave enough to confront an obnoxious guest directly. Instead I employ nonverbal control techniques like the Eye Roll or the Heavy Sigh. When I really want to signal my objection to the offender, I employ the Making an Abrupt Departure from the Room, accompanied by a Headshake and Tsk-tsk. This tactic rarely changes the course of the party, but it does offer me some personal satisfaction."
Wallflowers: Julie Dolan, 48, is a veteran party giver, hosting everything from gourmet dinner clubs and office grab bags to cookie exchanges. Her fete philosophy: Never underestimate the bonding power of karaoke. "I owe my strategy to the legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant: Flood the zone. Overwhelm your guests with hospitality. Whip up blender drinks and towering desserts. Invite your chatty aunt, a five-year-old who sings Irish ballads, maybe a dog or two. I live in Moscow, so this year I'm armed with Cossack dancers, a Russian bear act, and a big tray of flaming vodka shots. Commotion is the key to suppressing any social uprising."
Grown-ups Who Can't Behave: Liz Dolan, 46, has found that grown-ups behave better in public places such as restaurants than they do in private homes. Eliminate kitchens, dens, and driveway basketball courts, and there's simply less square footage for bickering couples to use as militarized zones. "The more experience I have hosting parties, the more I believe that it is perfectly all right to create an Island of the Damned, one table full of participants identified in advance as volatile. What's the alternative? If you don't isolate them, they can bring down the fun factor at every other table. Treat dangerous guests as you would monkey pox: quarantine them."