A couple weeks ago, I went over to a friend’s house to have lunch with her and two other girlfriends. As she prepared our lunch, she jokingly told me to close my eyes as she pulled a bagged salad kit out of the fridge. She apologized for it not being made from scratch; the other girls asked in jest if I was going to take pictures of our lunch for my blog. Obviously they were making light of the fact that they didn’t (or wouldn’t) prepare lunch the same way that I would. And it hit me that this urge to apologize to our guests–whether with an actual “I’m sorry…” or via self-deprecating remarks–is a ploy to preclude judgment, to excuse ourselves from our self-perceived shortcomings.
Yes, I thought, I was going to talk about this lunch on my blog, just not in the way they thought. Instead of judging my friend’s pre-made salad from Costco, I was impressed that she took the time to marinate and grill chicken for us while caring for her seven-month-old baby. Heck, I was impressed that she was even willing to have three girlfriends (and the other four children they brought along) over at all.
I don’t mean to pick on my friend. She’s certainly not alone in her apologies (plus she’s an amazingly gracious and generous host). In fact, the very next day, I fought those same urges to apologize for my home being an absolute wreck when a friend came over. The day after that, an apology was the first thing out of my mouth to some friends who arrived early. In the past, I’ve apologized for dirty floors, overcooked meat, not enough chairs, not enough sparkling water… you name it. I project my insecurities into the form of judgment from my guests. What if they think, “gosh this is a great meal, but would you look at that filthy bathroom?!” Cue the apology/joke…
We’ve got to slow our roll with these apologies. When we invite guests over for a meal, they’re usually focused on three things: 1) free food, 2) eating food they didn’t have to prepare, and 3) quality time with friends. They aren’t focusing on the dust bunnies under your table or the pile of laundry that needs to get folded. Your guests are probably grateful for a reminder that they aren’t the only ones whose home isn’t photoshoot ready all the time. And if the food turns out to be inedible, order a pizza and laugh about it. Drop your cake on the way out of the oven? Chunk it up and layer it with whipped cream to turn it into a trifle (I actually did that once). People will remember how you respond to mistakes more than they will remember the mistakes themselves. Don’t trust my advice? Take it from Julia Child: “if a dish goes horribly wrong… never apologize.”
By all means, please apologize if you actually hurt someone, but quit apologizing in an effort to stop your guests from judging you. I’m pretty sure your friends will still like you even if your floor isn’t swept or the steaks aren’t perfectly cooked. And if your guests think less of you because of your house or the meal you serve, you might not want to be friends with them anyway.