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Group Therapy

image“Let’s just invite everybody. What are the chances they’ll all say yes?” I reasoned. “Probably 50%, tops, right?”

By the time I sent the email invite out, the number hovered somewhere around 70, if you included offspring. 55 said yes, and of those 55, at least three  asked if they could bring a few friends. How could we say no?


The last time we went for a July 4th blowout, we invited more than 75 people but cancelled before we even received all the RSVPs. We blamed the threat of rain in the forecast, but we really just chickened out.

“Our house just isn’t a big crowd type of house,” Bertrand had reasoned after I sent the cancellations out and we exhaled. “We’re better suited to a dozen or so.”

I went along with that belief for a few years, but I was tired of dividing up into groups of six or eight. I was tired of forgetting certain people (which I’m sure we did this time, too), while favoring others for every guest list. For once, we wanted everyone together.  We wanted the friends who had little kids to meet the friends who were grandparents; we wanted the friends who were architects to meet the friends who were real estate brokers; we wanted our older friends to meet our younger friends. You get my point.

imageThe menu was the easy part. Make room-temperature stuff, avoid heat enemies like mayonnaise. Making enough of each dish, however, was the daunting task. 55 guests is restaurant seating size. 55  guests is wedding size. 55 eaters requires tubs of salad, tubs of marinade, crates of lettuce, sacks of potatoes.

Yep, not near ready.

The weekend before, I held up a proverbial white flag. “What if  we asked a few friends for help,” I offered as we drove to our friends, whose luncheon we would perhaps glean a few tips from. “But only to those who we know like to cook,” I added.

imageHope offered a brilliant suggestion, so simple in its concept.”I’d happily make something,” she said when I bemoaned my stress to her at the luncheon. “But give me a recipe! Tell us what to make and we’ll bring it. People like direction.”

People like direction. Interesting theory. I thought about it as I walked Remy through Lisa and Tony’s yard. I thought back to all of the potluck dinners and bridal showers I’d gone to over the years, all the head scratching I’d done, or all the repeated dishes I’d made because I couldn’t come up with a new dish. On the one hand it was heartwarming to be known for a signature dish (my turkey rolls), but being given a recipe did have its way of diluting expectations.

imageI tried Hope’s idea out on Gordon, who I knew loved to cook and was good at it. “I’ll make whatever you want,” he agreed. When I told him that I’d send him the recipe, he repeated, “I’ll make whatever you want.”

He backed that sentiment with an email a few hours later. “Loved seeing you. Happy to make something. Xg”

I sent two options: corn salad that we had recently made from Bon Appetit  (  or smoked potatoes ( He chose the potatoes.


Nearly everyone else chose the corn. We would likely have enough of it for 100 people, which would be fine by me because I could eat this stuff for days.Ulterior motive?

imageIt is presently 2:17, day of. The filthy under porch has been swept, the meat is marinating, the tables are set and, in the past two hours, we’ve received three emails from guests asking if it’s ok to bring a few more friends. image

“Grrrrr” is my reaction, but as I complain to Bertrand I realize that our initial invite had a “the more, the merrier” tone. Moreover, I never expressed that it was going to be a sit-down dinner. Then again, guests who have come to our dinners (and all three of these emailers have) know that they are sit-downs. I write back, “Sure! But they might be eating on their laps!” Is that mean?

It is. I write back to the emailers and apologize. “Please bring your friends! We’ll figure it out!”

We would figure it out. I am cranky and sleep-deprived and am starting to wonder whether I’m having a mild heart attack. Instead, I cry. It will all be over in six hours, I reason to myself. I know that’s the wrong attitude, but I am so damn sleepy, I truly worry that my fatigue will prevent me from enjoying myself. I head to a guest room for a nap, and dream of a second wind…



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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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