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Holiday (party) in Cambodia.

I watch an amount of HGTV that embarrasses me, as a guy who still listens to the Dead Kennedys, and one thing that really makes my aura frown is the term “entertaining.”
“Oh, this space would be wonderful for entertaining.” “I dunno, hon, this living room is small, and you know how we like to entertain.” “We can’t wait to move in, decorate, and entertain!”

WTF are you people doing when you have friends over, vaudeville? I understand there’s a need for shorthand, but are people afraid to say “have people over for dinner” or, gasp, “have a party”? At work a colleague objected to the term “party” as applied to a gathering to say farewell to a retiree. Ugh. Here I thought you could have a party without a couple of kegs and a kilo of the finest Columbian. Also, you don’t need a foyer with 30-foot ceilings and a catering-capable kitchen to have a cocktail party.

The wife and I had friends over for drinks a couple weekends ago—perhaps one could have called it a holiday party. I learned most of what I know about planning a party from my parents, who are esteemed hosts. A few rules were implicit:

1. With food, just don’t run out.
I know you’ve been meaning to try that great Adria recipe for chilled jamon “sandwiches” with chocolate “mustard,” but now is not the time. Also, how many oysters can you really shuck before your hands and forearms look like they belong in a butcher’s window? Don’t be too ambitious; Trader Joe’s freezer aisle is to you like manna from heaven.

2. Don’t ask guests to bring specific things.
Asking a beer drinker to bring vodka is just shitty. And he’ll probably buy suitably shitty vodka. Cover the basics yourself and welcome guests to bring something they like to eat or drink.

3. The host wears a tie.
My dad feels the same about overdressing as he does about $40 haircuts, but he still makes an effort when he’s in charge.

4. Better to chat than to fuss.
I have a hard time with this one myself—I’m always messing with the iPod or trying to bake another round of cocktail weiners. My mom sets up for a party and then essentially forgets she’s responsible for it. Someone spilled the cocktail shaker? Hand them a roll of paper towels and get back to your conversation.

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