I’m still recovering from 12 days spent mostly inside (aka trapped) with my family over Christmas with nothing to sustain us except red wine, holiday cheer, and mounting tension. I went to more dinner parties this holiday season than ever before, and I’m exhausted. It’s hard to drink throughout the day while also remembering what your cousin does for a living, and which one doesn’t have a job and doesn’t like being asked about it. It’s also exhausting being a good guest, which would explain why most people just don’t do it.
1. IF YOU DIDN’T COOK IT, YOU HAVE TO CLEAN IT
I grew up with the notion that the one who makes the meal shouldn’t have to do the clean- up. But apparently, this was not the norm. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be a guest who chats with others and doesn’t lift one finger before or during the meal. Maybe you’re talking to relatives you haven’t seen in a while, or it’s a tradition for you to have a game of touch football while the “women make the meal.”
But for realsies, when the meal is over get off your ass, grab some plates, and start clearing the table. This isn’t a prison mess hall; no one is going to announce the end of the meal, there will just come a time where forks are down and plates are mostly empty. If the host joins you in the kitchen or takes over dish duty, that’s not a free pass for you either. There are plenty of things to do post-meal other than the dishes.
2. JUST LIKE AN ORGASM, A FAKE ONE DOESN’T COUNT
Asking “can I help you with anything?” from 10 feet away while sitting on your ass is not a true offer to help. It’s like a woman slowly reaching for her wallet on a first date. She doesn’t mean it and would be shocked if he said, “Yes, let’s go Dutch”. Avoid the fake question game all together by just getting up and pitching in, it won’t take very long.
Hey, granddaughter’s boyfriend meeting the extended family for the first time, of course you don’t know where anything goes, but you have two eyes, is the trash full? Hint: the trash is always a little full. Ignorance doesn’t get you out of a traffic ticket and it shouldn’t get you out of clean up duty.
3. NOT SO FAST LAZY BONES, WE’RE ONLY HALFWAY DONE
Don’t you dare slap some saran wrap on that huge-ass dish of potatoes that is only 1/3 full and place it in the fridge. Find some Tupperware or a smaller dish and transfer that shit.
Dishwasher full? Tough luck, run that sucker and continue washing the large things that wouldn’t go in the dishwasher anyway, like knives, pots, pans and wine glasses. Leave the scraped off, rinsed off, dirty plates neatly by the sink for when the first load is done.
The same goes for emptying the dishwasher; you may not know where the potato masher goes, but you can figure out where plates go by opening a few cabinets. Put everything away you can and make a neat pile of things you’re unsure of, because putting things away in some random spot creates more work for your host.
4. EARN YOUR KEEP
If you are not related to the family by blood, a ring, or the equivalent (adoption certificate, post-commitment ceremony, or baby daddy) and they are taking a family photo, GET UP AND TAKE THE PICTURE FOR THEM. Why should Uncle Greg have to take it and not be in it? You’re the girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever; you haven’t earned a spot in that photo yet!
Also, bring a freaking hostess gift! Showing up empty handed saying, “I asked if I could bring anything and they said no!” makes you a shitty person. I keep a drawer of stuff in my apartment like candles - they are freaking easy in a pinch. Or at least wine which is sold everywhere at all hours. Re-gifting is fine - I reuse wine bags and more all the time. Put a sticky note on it of who gave it to you when/where to make sure you don’t re-gift in the same circle of friends or family.
Lastly, there are three groups of people who are exempt from earning their keep. The guest of honor, those over 50, or anyone who has kids old enough who can do your family name proud and help on your behalf. For example, my parents would never do dishes at a large dinner I was at, nor should they, but you know they did when they were my age. Hierarchy people. Respect it. If you’re in your 20s, congrats on your youthful skin, but you have at least 10 years of washing dishes at parties in your future.
BOTTOM LINE – just be someone who should be invited again. Bring a bottle of wine, eat great food, and do some dishes for all of 30 minutes. Most hosts are not I and are therefore way too nice to say anything like “get up and help…please!” to a guest, but come on, you did practically nothing. You know the host had to menu plan, clean their house, shop for groceries, prep, and cook, what did you do to deserve such a nicely prepared meal while others run around? The dishes? Good answer!