An article titled, “How to host a Crappy Dinner” has appeared in my social media stream and email inbox more than a few times over the past week.
Have you read it? You may have, as it’s been shared over 120,000 times.
Essentially, author Kelley Powell writes about how she and her friend, Laura, have started a Crappy Dinner tradition. Based on the laid-back attitude of Northern Saskatchewan life (where people show up unannounced on the reg, apparently), she is touting the idea of having friends over on the spur of the moment.
“When [Laura] returned two years later she told me how friends there just show up at each other’s houses, unannounced. People feed each other whatever happens to be in their fridge that day. There’s no preparation, no stress – just pure enjoyment.”
Regardless of the status of your house, or the contents in your fridge, just make a dinner happen. A “Crappy Dinner” should be something you embrace, rather than an embarrassment.
Right after I read the article, I felt warm and fuzzy. Yes, we should all get together for crappy dinners! Who cares if Mr. Suburble’s Calvins are in a heap on the bathroom floor? Big deal if we’re eating Cheerios and that leftover meatloaf from last night. I’m wearing a camping sweater and yesterday’s mascara? Yes – do come in.
Except… when I thought about it, my brain slapped my heart right across the face. Actually, friends, don’t come over unannounced. Give me a minute or fifteen.
And I will not drag my disheveled children and my hungry husband over to your house without first being invited. While it sounds lovely, in theory, I can only imagine the panicked faces I would be greeted with. That’s not friendship – that’s just mean.
Laura and Kelley established rules for their crappy dinners. They were as follows:
Crappy Dinner Rule 1. No housework is to be done prior to a guest’s arrival
Crappy Dinner Rule 2. The menu must be simple and not involve a special grocery shop
Crappy Dinner Rule 3. You must wear whatever you happen to have on
Crappy Dinner Rule 4. No hostess gifts allowed
Crappy Dinner Rule 5 (optional). You must act like you’re surprised when your friend and her family just happen to show up at your door.
I love having dinners with friends. Whether it’s one family or four, I feel like breaking bread together is a great way to bring friendships even closer. And while I do get my jollies from watching Ina Garten prepare insanely over-the-top brunches for her Hamptons crowd, I have not deluded myself into thinking that I need to create three course meals for our family friends.
But I enjoy prepping for a dinner. I like whipping up a meal (even if it is a few jars of sauce tossed into a pot), and I can’t NOT clean my bathroom. I will develop a tic and end up leaving halfway through the meal to clean it.
I won’t clean my bedroom or either of the girls’ rooms, because I’m lazy and you don’t care. But if I make a half-assed effort, I think that’s fair enough. If you make a half-assed effort when I come to your house, then we’re good. We’re worth shutting the laundry room door and perhaps sending the hubby out for a loaf of garlic bread.
I know that’s not the point of Powell’s article, but at the same time, that part of her blog post was a tiny bit unrealistic. We do need to lower our expectations of ourselves and others in order to allow for gatherings and authentic friendships, I completely agree with that. But aside from stressing about our not-so-perfect homes, the most important thing that we need to do first is to reach out, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Of those 120,000 shares of her article, I’d like to know how many people then ran with that inspiration and then called/texted/emailed a friend to say, “Wanna come over for dinner?”
That takes far more effort than clicking the “share” button on Facebook. It means possibly being rejected. It means asking for your playroom to be trashed and a heap of dishes to do.
We can all laugh and say, “Heh heh, I’m not going to clean up at ALL before you come over.”
But for 90% of us, our pants would spontaneously combust at that moment. It would a hot pack of lies.
I have read many articles, and heard so many comments about how our society is becoming increasingly disconnected, due to being TOO connected. With technology drawing us inwards and being so busy/anxious/disinterested that we don’t even know our own neighbours, we’re losing our “village”. And if your family is separated by distance – or whatever else it is that slips between blood ties – the space left by that loss can be a large one.
Powell’s argument is that we should just stop feeling so inadequate and just get together, for the love of pete. And she’s right.
But if you quickly clean the toilet and throw the laundry into the bedroom so that you don’t feel weird about me being there, that’s okay too. If you ask me to pick up an appetizer on the way over, that’s awesome. I want to contribute; it makes me feel even more a part of the dinner.
And if there is a mess, it’s okay to apologize. But only do it once. Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t have to make dinner, and I’m in good company. That’s what matters.
Despite what the internet says, I believe that people, as a whole, are far less judgemental than you’d think. They’re much more insecure that they let on, too. Supper is a great way to get people to sit down and connect.
So don’t worry – I’m not going to knock on your door at five o’clock on a Friday to see what you’re up to. But if you want to give me a call to see if I want to come over, chances are – I do.