Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to have the neighbors over



The second-to-the-last of our neighborhood Christmas cocktails just finished and the next and final one will be on Sunday. This is my evening to host everyone after enjoying the round of Christmas parties as a guest. And I can tell you that I got a lot of grief tonight from a couple of people who insisted on pressuring me in a friendly way to live up to everyone's expectations and end the Christmas cocktail round with a holiday bang.

THE LADY WITH THE MOSTEST

Tonight's hostess is a "lady with the mostest," as I like to call her. She lives in a beautiful home of classic design, put together by a famous architect. It's so unlike this famous architect's usual style -- he pioneered the Asian modern in the Philippines -- but he did a great job of combining large ivory figurines, beautiful chandeliers, and graceful antiques all in one house. And with almost perfect symmetry.

Part of tonight's open house was a tour of her extensive bag and jewelry collection as well; and, boy, did a couple of emerald-and-diamond necklaces make our eyes all pop out. They were as big as Christmas ornaments, and they were all strung together in a necklace lined with large diamonds.

I don't know too many people who can pull off wearing such a necklace, but our hostess certainly can. She wore her necklace with a simple black blouse and we all oohed and ached over it in her bedroom. At least the ladies did, while the men stayed in the living room talking about business.

A 10-YEAR-OLD SINGER PLUS A PIANIST

When I walked in, there was a pianist on a grand piano just like at the party my bachelor neighbor with the Pacific Northwest house big enough for a party for 500 hosted. But tonight's hostess did one better over him -- and logically so, since she's down the line so technically the parties are supposed to be getting better. She had the son of the pianist accompany his father. The boy is ten years old and he has a fantastic voice. I could've sat listening to him all night.

In fact, for the first part of the evening, I did stand next to the piano requesting songs. "Ikaw," and "What are you doing the rest of your life." He sang both simply beautifully. Then I tried requesting a couple of more recent songs like "Imagine," but the boy didn't know them.

"He only knows old songs," his father explained. The boy smiled sheepishly at me and I said to him: "You're too young to be singing about romance and heartache."

MORE PRESSURE FROM THE SIDES

Then my bachelor neighbor with the large house -- let's call him A -- sidled up to me to begin torturing me for most of the evening. He said: "We had a pianist, a guitarist, a choral group and now a ten-year-old protégée and a pianist. What are you going to do for your party?"

I almost whacked him on the shoulder. "This is all your fault," I said. "You started it by hiring a pianist in the first place."

Then he said to me: "But what were you thinking, by volunteering to be the last? Did you think this would be a simple have-the-neighbors-over kind of party? Were you that naive?"

He was teasing me, but he also wasn't. And I really didn't think much about the date, actually; it was just that December 18 was most convenient for me. And I also really thought that "having the neighbors over" meant putting out a few bottles of wine and some canapés, and playing some music. Besides, I do enough fancy events at work all the time; so I thought this time, for a private event, it could just be a chill-out party.

MORE PRESSURE THAN A TRAVELIFE EVENT


And I do entertain quite a bit, and I have no qualms about having a couple of ambassadors or big-time CEOs over for dinner. But for some reason, this neighbors party is making me more anxious than hosting Travelife Italy Night with a total of 38 ambassadors and honorary consuls and 300 guests. This was probably A's doing. He'd gone second in the circuit so he's been on relax mode since then -- and he's taken great pleasure in reminding me about what I have to live up to on Sunday, at every opportunity.

"You're Travelife," he said. "People expect something."

My good friend's husband took great pleasure in giving me grief as well. "The pressure's on you now," he said, looking like he was enjoying it. And between both of them, I had lots to think about regarding what to do on Sunday.

GREAT FOOD AND GIFTS AS WELL

Well, the hostess tonight certainly put on a good show. A famous chef served us sushi, lechon kawali and roast beef to start, and then there were three or four kinds of pasta to choose from. For dessert we had the most scrumptious chocolate cake and mango cake. And everything was downed with very good champagne. And this was supposed to be an after-dinner thing that started at 9 PM. Most of us had already had dinner at some other party before coming over.

Her home, too, was very carefully and tastefully done. In fact, all my neighbors have beautiful houses so it's so fun and interesting to see what everyone has done with theirs. A and I admired every detail of the living room. Then he said: "It's not my style but I like it. It's very well done. It reminds me of how beautiful Forbes houses were in the 60s."

And for everyone who came to the party, our hostess had a take-home gift of delicious macarons in an elegant black box with a giant gold ribbon. So A looked at me again and said with a I-told-you-so look: "See. She even has take-home gifts."

It was my turn to ask him: "And why didn't you have take-home gifts?" He'd served us very good food at his party and given us a grand tour, but there were certainly no gifts at the end.

He replied: "I actually had gifts. But I forgot all about them because you all were in a hurry to leave." We'd left past midnight, you see, and almost everyone had work the next day.

I said brightly to him: "I have an idea. Why don't you bring your gifts over on Sunday then, and we can pretend they're my take-home gifts?"

NO NEED FOR A WAITER!

So this banter continued for quite a while and then I realized that I'd better get home to start planning my home and party. Everyone so far has given us a picture perfect open house. I certainly can't be the one to break the cycle.

When some of my neighbors heard about all the pressure A had been heaping on me, they said: "Don't listen to him. It's a relaxed party." That was easy for them to say, of course; they were through with hosting.

When we parted, A said to me with a twinkle in his eye: "See you on Sunday. I'll be there at 6 pm sharp." He was loving this.

And it's just like him to start the pressure rolling from minute one. I replied: "Yes, do that. You can be my very first guest." And with some luck, he can help me serve the drinks as well so I won't have to hire a waiter.

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