The other day, a CoJ reader asked a friendship etiquette question…
“We host friends regularly,” commented JW on this post about party food. “But we almost never get invited by anyone else. My family enjoys hosting and we have a house that’s set up for it, but it can feel lonely always initiating and hosting events on our own. I feel like our friends would just go on with their lives without us if we didn’t invite them over, and that makes me sad. Anyone else experiencing this?”
A Greek chorus of readers agreed. (“Yes, 100% yes.” “Can relate! It stings.” “My husband and I feel the same way.” “So many discussions on this exact issue with my therapist.” )
But the final comment of the thread really struck me:
“I think some people are Party Hosts, and other people are Enthusiastic Guests,” wrote Kara. “If you’re the Party Host in your friend group, I don’t think you should take it personally if no one else is. Not everyone has the kind of relationship to their home where they feel comfortable hosting, and not everyone finds that kind of work fun. Reciprocity often looks like returning the same amount of energy in a way that fits the person. I’d look for returned energy in other forms. If you still feel like you put in all the effort, maybe it’s time to gently share that with your closest friends, and let the not-so-close friends drift loose.”
YES! YES! YES! In my group of friends, there are a few Party Hosts (myself included because I enjoy it). Then the Enthusiastic Guests show up with gossip and jokes and Prosecco and Chipwiches. And that’s where the magic happens.
“My favorite guests are the people who are excited,” Catherine Newman said in her legendary home tour. “I love when I say, ‘Would you like wine or beer at dinner?’ and they’re like, ‘Ooh, can we have both?!’ I appreciate people who are into being hosted and enjoy all the special stuff. ‘Do you guys eat ice cream?’ ‘WE LOVE ICE CREAM!!!!!!’”
Plus, friends bring all kinds of things to the table, of course. While I like to host people, my friend Claire is the world’s best and most patient listener, and my friend Gemma arrives early to do my makeup before parties and also came to doctor appointments with me when I was depressed years ago, a deeply tender gift I’ll never forget. If you view friendship with a larger lens, it’s easier to see how people share love and support in many different ways.
Examples of enthusiastic guests:
Now I’m curious, which are you: a Party Host or Enthusiastic Guest? I’d love to hear. There’s no wrong answer!