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Hosting: Where does hospitality end...

...and ego begin?

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  1. It's all about attitude.

    1. Hospitality means pleasing your guest/s. Ego is held in abeyance.

      1 Reply
      1. re: igorm

        I respectfully disagree that ego is held in abeyance. One's ego is the reason one bends over backwards to please the guests. No one wants to be considered a poor host.

        1. What makes you think they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum?

          2 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I didn't mean to imply that they're mutually exclusive or at opposite ends, as you put it.

            I actually think there's some intersection, and then perhaps a fine line one can cross where the desire to to be considered a consummate host, and actions taken in that pursuit, actually get in the way of guests' comfort.

          2. My flip answer is that hospitality is practiced by genuine extraverts who want to make their guests feel good, whereas ego can be "practiced" by anyone who wants to make themselves look good. But really, an example is the best definition.

            When I lived in Texas, I had a good friend who was probably the most hospitable person I have ever known. She just loved to have people over, and made us feel like honored guests every time. Her house was never perfectly clean, and her food was never elaborate or beautiful. It was just tasty.

            I remember one dinner party when I came over early to help her get ready. She had a massive pile of dirty laundry in the hallway off her foyer, so she asked, "Would you mind just kicking that into the laundry room? If it doesn't all fit, just throw it in the garage. I'd hate for someone to trip on it on the way to the powder room."

            Her relaxed, doesn't-have-to-be-shiny-perfect attitude really put guests at ease. No one wants to go to a home where they feel unworthy of the environment or the food. That's what ego does.

            16 Replies
            1. re: Isolda

              I say to people who are worried about how their house looks, people come to my house for the food, wine and company. If they came to see how clean it was, they can go home.

              1. re: Isolda

                Thanks for sharing this story, Isolda. Made me smile.

                I think one of the best things I brought back to CA from my year in Boise, ID was just this kind of friendly, unguarded, unpretentious hospitality. Not that I can't enjoy a more formal meal in someone's home, but I find I have the best time when the host treats me more like friend than guest.

                1. re: Isolda

                  A relaxed, at ease attitude goes a long way towards setting a comfortable environment!

                  One quibble, I don't feel hospitality is limited to extroverts. Introverts are quite able to offer sincere hospitality too. There are as many ways to be hospitable as there are people practicing it!

                  Hospitality is motivated by genuine caring for your guests experience. Ego is motivated by how the host is perceived.

                    1. re: meatn3

                      I agree. But as an introvert, I do think extraverts have an easier time. I can be hospitable, but I have to gear up for it a bit more. Otherwise, it would be all too easy to spend the entire time in the kitchen cooking and washing up while my husband is left to do the entertaining.

                    2. re: Isolda

                      Two days later and I'm still mulling is over.

                      Human personalities are often categorized as extroverts and introverts. Now there are genuine extraverts, and everyone else who cannot practice hospitality but only ego.

                      Are there no introverts who do in fact want to make their guests feel good?

                      I agree that we all enjoy hospitality when it seems effortless and when the effort mirrors just what the guest prefers to feel welcome. But I can't agree that a personality trait -- unavailable to 20-30% of the population -- is a necessary & sufficient condition for hospitality, any more than I could agree that an unsuccessful effort is therefore ego..

                      1. re: KTFoley

                        You and I might define 'introvert' differently. Some of the most conscientious, caring, and thoughtful people I know are introverts, at least in terms of personality testing (sort of a can of worms).

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Cowboyardee, I think that you and I are on the same page, and maybe Isolda had something else in mind when she said that "hospitality is practiced by genuine extraverts."

                          1. re: KTFoley

                            Yeah, I misread you KT. Sorry bout that.

                      2. re: Isolda

                        Nice example Isolda. Your point is very well taken. I am an introvert myself and I do want to make my guests feel good though. Maybe one of the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is who they tend to invite over.

                        1. re: Isolda

                          I love that attitude! I used to torture myself trying to have everything perfect for guests and ended up so stressed and miserable that I couldn't enjoy the company of my friends or family. I have relaxed quite a bit over the years...I am sure some would say too much! My rules now are clean bathrooms and clean kitchen (not neat necessarily, just not a health hazard). I have a lot more fun this way!

                            1. re: Sue in Mt P

                              True enough. And now that I don't feel compelled to try and be something I can't, I have a lot more fun. I just had a house full of people for Memorial Day and did not have time to do any meaningful cleaning ahead of time. I told my guests that the bathrooms were clean, the kitchen was sanitary, but I made no promises about anything else.

                              1. re: jlhinwa

                                and you know what? For most people, that's enough. (meaning that most people don't expect more than that)

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  True enough. I finally had that epiphany after one too many times stressing out before having people over. I realized I never noticed or cared about the state of someone else's home unless the bathroom was truly disgusting or the kitchen looked like a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. I'm so much more laid-back now.

                          1. re: Isolda

                            Isolda, I'm going to print this and show my husband- I love your post, thanks.

                          2. Hospitality ends when the liquor runs out.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: beevod

                              Which by no small coincidence is about when the guests run out.

                            2. Ego is in the eye of the beholder.

                              We laugh about it now but, the first real fight I ever had with my husband was over Easter dinner. It was our first time hosting as newlyweds, and I was just getting to know most of his family.

                              I was trying so hard to make everyone feel welcome and be a good host. Since I really didn't know what anyone liked, I just made everything - ham, lamb, lasagna, turkey, prime rib. I was literally sick worrying that I had missed a favorite food and was ruining someone's holiday.

                              When a brother made the comment that I had cooked too much, the others joined in, and my husband looked like he wanted to crawl under the table. Later he told me that I had badly embarrassed him by "showing off".

                              He saw it as ego. Really, it was angst.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Whinerdiner

                                Aww. You broke a little piece of my heart with that story... :(

                                I can't believe his family ganged up on you like that and he backed them. I hope you gave him burnt food for a week. :P

                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                  I didn't give him burnt food, but it took me years to have anyone over. We clearly have conflicting styles of entertaining. Over the years we've reached a compromise. His family - he cooks. I smile and pour cocktails. My family - I plan the menu and he keeps out of it.

                                  It seems to be working, but these days we're more likely to host at a restaurant than at home.

                                2. re: Whinerdiner

                                  That brother who commented sounds like a real stinker.

                                  1. re: Whinerdiner

                                    that's too bad, and I hope your marriage has recovered...for some relationships, that could be an enormous and irreparable crack in the foundation.

                                    Years ago, just by quirk, three of us spent our first Christmas with my now inlaws -- the oldest brother had just remarried (they hosted), and my now-hubby and one of his sisters both brought their significant others....there are 7 kids, and all but one were there with spouses and family...so the house was packed to the rafters with extended family. There were enough issues going on that day that we could have sold subscriptions...!

                                    My poor sister-in-law did a very similar thing -- cooking for a much-larger army than we actually are, and with the feeling that she needed to be Martha Stewart to pull this off. The cranberry sauce overflowed the bowl onto her antique oak dining table (fortunately it came up later)....she tried to put all of the sweet potato peelings down the disposal at once, which resulted in two of the brothers-in-law lying in the middle of their very small kitchen to get it fixed with all of us stepping over and around them to keep the dinner production going...at about 3:30 in the afternoon, she took me by the shoulders, absolute panic on her face, and said she couldn't remember how to make green bean casserole (now that's bad...). My now MIL and I took her upstairs, gave her a Valium, and tucked her in for a nap, then went down and finished the meal for her.

                                    She did come down and join us a little later, much calmer and (mostly) in control.

                                    We all realized that she wasn't trying to show off...she was aiming for the Rockwell painting of the family holiday, and not realizing that not only is perfection not possible, it wasn't ever expected.

                                    It's a favorite family story now, especially now that the nieces and nephews are starting to marry and bring their spouses and families into the uproar.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      sunshine, you were so good to give SIL a valium and taking over the meal!

                                      It's proof that no good deed goes unpunished!

                                    2. re: Whinerdiner

                                      Your husband is a turd. Mine tends to be that way- when there's an Eileen bashing going on, he can always throw something new into the mix. Since my mother died it's minimized, but nobody on my husband's side of the family would say anything bad about me or my cooking except for my sister trying to bring on the personal bashing just for history's sake. Whinerdiner, you need to get some help with this- it's a horrible thing you went through, AND while knocking yourself out trying to please your new family? Honestly, they sound like a bunch of assholes.

                                      1. re: Whinerdiner

                                        I totally relate to this! I try too hard to please, and I have some relatives who accuse me of overdoing it, as if I am showing off or being ostentatious. It is not the case--I am just trying to make everyone happy.

                                      2. Hospitality is about caring how your guests feel. Ego is caring about what they think about you.

                                        These aren't mutually exclusive, though, and going too far one way or the other can make your guests uncomfortable.

                                        1. I think when anyone starts to brag about their dishes, talk about how other people's dishes are never as outstanding as theirs or their wine sub-standard, or perhaps getting into the whole "woe is host" or dinner-party martyr thing, that's when the ego begins.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                            "Woe is host." Good way to put it, im.

                                          2. I like to keep guests on edge, giddily anxious-- all at sea.
                                            Then I feed them.
                                            Satiate them.

                                            Whatever they think of me I feel better about myself.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Kholvaitar

                                              Interesting thread.
                                              Everything we as humans do is the result of our Id/'ego'/super ego. I mean everything.
                                              We want everything we do to make us 'happy AKA contented/satisfied/OK with ourselves.
                                              No sane person does anything on purpose to make themselves feel unhappy/sad/embarrassed/unworthy feeling etc.
                                              Question then: Why would a sane person go into a strange place/sit among strangers in dim light/purchase food they in all likelihood can't afford/get dressed up in 'monkey suits and dresses' which don't fit and only wear twice a year/be served by people we know (and they know) are 'posing' to be some sort of benevolent all knowing experts on food who are actually praying for enough tips to cover last months late rent/pretend to know the difference between a good plate of gooy pasta from a great plate of gooy pasta/purchase a mediocre bottle of wine that costs more than a full tank of gas/then come home and pretend the occasion was worth the five hundred bucks? And then have the last thought before falling asleep be: "What was I thinking!?"
                                              In another time and place forcing someone to do the above would be cause for a criminal charge.
                                              Humans are a strange lot. IMO when God made man he was having a bad day.

                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                So, the id instinctively leads us to want sustenance. Later, the super ego provides our last thought. Problem, it seems to me, is not simply being human, it's being too ego-centric humans.

                                                Remember that you can only check your own ego. And only you can check your own ego.

                                                Remember that there are a lot of folks on this Site who have such low self-esteem that an exaggerated ego is the only way they can cope. Its manifestations are myriad, but if you look carefully, they stick out like the smell of the rotten chicken you bought on clearance. They only see things through their own eyes, only hear them through their own ears, only walk in their own shoes - everything shrouded by their own belief that everyone else thinks and sounds like they do. They don't permit the voices of others to come through the static they force upon their ears, their minds.

                                                Remember that there will always be somebody who is "more" than you. Have more money. Be smarter, taller, stronger, kinder, etc. Aspire internally - without comparing out. Bitching is kinda like cocaine - it feels wonderful for that first few minutes after it hits your nose, but then it leaves you empty, sad, and willing to f*ck the ugliest thing in the room for more.

                                                Remember that man made man and each day, we make ourselves. We make our world. We make our minds. And, we have the ability to tolerate and understand others - no matter how f*cked up they may seem to us.

                                                Remember that if you don't want regrets when you put your head on the pillow - be aware - be present - be real - be what you want everyone to be.

                                                Remember to eat, drink, and be merry. Remember to do so with abandon. Just, also, remember to do so with thought and consciousness of your own being and with an acceptance of the ignorance of others.*

                                                *I mean, it wouldn't be fair to get rid of the entire population of the fly-over states simply because their pizza sucks and they still eat lots of it, would it?

                                                Hmmm . . ..

                                                No, wait, I'm still thinkin' . . .

                                                No, I'ma pretty sure that's not ok. Right? Right? I mean, what's in that cheese? Was it really cheese? Is there any garlic powder? Chile flakes?. . .

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  My 'hospitality' ends the moment someone abuses it.
                                                  For example we invited a local family of five along with about fifteen other people for TD some years ago. We did this b/c we heard they were having a tough time financially. The father and mother were pissed when they arrived. The kids were totally out of control. This lasted about ten minutes. I took a couple of my friends aside and we politely/quietly escorted the family into a cab never to be seen again.
                                                  Like that.

                                            2. lol.....it is natural to want to be a good host/hostess and for your guests to enjoy your cooking. And sometimes folks lack of verbal appreciation gets in the way:-) My niece (sister's daughter) tipped me off to this at TDay this year. My sister had pulled out the stuffing, asked me to taste it (it tasted fine; stuffing is stuffing:-), and then announced "This is the worst stuffing I ever made!" My niece later told a few of us: "If she says its the worst ___ she ever made, that's her way of asking for reaffirmation that it is in fact good. She's worried about it, so just reassure her that it is in fact the BEST _____ she ever made." I understand the ploy, and I agree with others' comments: many times people THINK its ego, when in fact it is just concern that your guests will get the meal they were looking forward to. And maybe a little of both.

                                              And really, the stuffing was very good. I am eating some right now that I snuck out of her refrigerator before I left:-)

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: janetofreno

                                                Wait a sec. Do I have you mixed up with another poster, or have you managed to escape the much-dreaded TD with your ungrateful MIL?
                                                You don't have to answer :)

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  @Jules: yes, you must have me confused. Sadly, my MIL left this earth 10 years before I met my husband. And, yes, Susan, the latkes were great. Too bad there was so much food that I was too stuffed to eat more than two:-). And you were worried that there wouldn't be enough:-)

                                                2. re: janetofreno

                                                  Hey, just because it is the worst I ever made doesn't mean it isn't good... :-). Since I seemed to be destined to host Thanksgiving for my large-ish family (not sure what I was thinking, buying a house with a big kitchen), I figure I might as well strive for perfection. After all, I eat the stuff too. I want it to be good for everyone including me. I am not sure it is an either/or situation. Guess I agree with plaidbowtie that they aren't mutually exclusive.

                                                  OTOH, my latkes the next morning *were* the best ever. Or so said daughter/niece claims. :-)

                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                    re: my prior post: then again, I am talking just about food here. Anyone who has ever been to my house knows that I have absolutely no interest in striving for perfection in my housekeeping. That said, I don't think that those who must have a perfectly clean house are victims of ego. As Janet implies, more likely driven by their own insecurity.

                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                      Insecurity is inextricably tied to the ego.

                                                  2. I would say that hospitality, in part, is playing to the ego of your guests, and if done correctly, then plays to your own ego. So, I don't think they are mutually exclusive, and I also don't think ego is a bad thing, if kept in moderation.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: plaidbowtie

                                                      Egos are like belly buttons. We've all got one.
                                                      Speaking of 'belly buttons' has anyone ever noticed every famous painting of Adam and Eve shows them with belly buttons? Pretty hilarious when you think of it.