Reflections on Entertaining, Vol. 12, Issue 7

Last week Boston was treated to the spectacle of a huge party faux pas when the grand opening of the new RH (née Restoration Hardware) had to be shut down by the police due to overcrowding. Etiquetteer is familiar with the "It doesn't feel like a party if it isn't crowded" theory, but is much more comfortable with the "Safety First" theory. According to the Boston Herald, party organizers hoped that "steady turnaround would prevent overcrowding," but one need look no further than the Lincoln Inaugural Ball of 1865 to see how assumptions of crowd circulation go wrong. With 4,000 people in attendance, the ball organizers expected to accommodate everyone in the supper room 400 at a time, with the Lincolns among the first 400. "Unfortunately, their plans went awry. When the doors were opened to the guests just before the Lincolns left, the sudden rush of people flooding from the ballroom quickly reduced the supper room to shambles . . . there was no way the Lincolns could get through the mob and out the front door, so they left by a side door . . . Reporter Noah Brooks thought the 'wildness' of the crowd that night was 'similar to some of the antics of the Paris Commune.'"* But the thing that really raised Etiquetteer's hackles was the tweet "Wait, the hottest party in town . . . was an opening for a (expletive) RETAIL STORE? The Onion pegged us today for sure." The tweeter (Twitterer?) was referring to a story in everyone's favorite parody news source The Onion, suggesting that Boston is really just a game of "Big City." While Etiquetteer isn't acquainted with this person, who might be the most sought-after host/hostess, Etiquetteer was tempted to ask "Well, why aren't you giving the hottest party in town?" Because a "hot" party doesn't have to be large, expensive, or pocked with celebrities. A "hot" party simply has to be perceived as desirable, and one does that by providing the best conversation along with reassuring quantities of the best food and drink. And by "best" Etiquetteer does not mean "expensive." You could be hosting a brunch and have the best coffee and scrambled eggs ever. In fact, why don't you host a brunch with the best coffee and scrambled eggs? Why don't you host a little dinner for four with the best gumbo or pasta or Russian cream? Why don't you host an open house with the best chocolate chip cookies and mimosas?

In fact, why don't you send Etiquetteer a message at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com right now and say why you aren't entertaining at home. Etiquetteer fears more and more people are abandoning this essential part of creating community out of sloth, stress, and boredom - what the late Dorothy Draper called the "Will to be Dreary" in her amusing and fanciful book Entertaining Is Fun! Everyone should be giving a party at home seven times a year, roughly once every seven weeks. Etiquetteer can think of a few different ways to do it - which should be the subject of a future column - from dinner for four to an open house for dozens. It doesn't have to be difficult! If everyone in town started to do this, Boston (or your own town) would be full of the "hottest" parties, and no one would have to rely on storekeepers for their entertaining excitement.

*Quoted in Presidential Inaugurations: Behind the Scenes - An Informal, Anecdotal History from Washington's Election to George W. Bush's Gala," by Paul F. Boller, Jr., page 207.