The DOs and DON'Ts of a Perfect Party Guest

How to be a perfect party guest

It's that time of the year again: Holidays! Which means time for parties. Hopefully, lots and lots of parties. Here's how to make sure you're invited back.

1. DO dress up!  It's a party - make the effort! Shower, wear clean clothes, and shine your shoes. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And if you're really smart, you'll wear one size bigger to accommodate all the food you'll be eating (two if you've been invited to my house). Don't be caught off guard when asked to take off your shoes upon arrival by making sure your outfit works without the shoes and your hosiery is clean and in one piece. (Let's not have a Carrie Bradshaw moment here.)

2. DO bring a gift for the Host! Flowers always work - go with a potted plant, or an arrangement in a vase (in case you've entered a vaseless house, which happens more times that one would think). Designer candle, a box of gourmet chocolates are also a good idea. Don't know what to bring? Stores like Williams-Sonoma, or Pottery Barn, or Crate & Barrel will be more than happy to help. They'll even wrap it for you. Include a note with your name on it so the Host will know the wonderful and thoughtful item was from you.

3. DON'T bring food UNLESS you were asked! The Host spent months developing a menu, your dish - no matter how good it is - is not part of that menu. (If you are indeed asked to bring food, see the guide below.)

4. If you're bringing wine: DO know your audience. Otherwise you'll end up with a heart attack when someone tosses an ice cube into a glass of white wine you spent hours selecting.

5.DON'T go into the kitchen! That is a Guest-free zone. (In some homes - a hostile war zone, to be exact). You weren't invited for your culinary skills, you were invited to eat. Find a nut bowl, or a bar, and park yourself next to it.

6. DON'T wander off exploring around the house. If the Host wants to show off the house, you will be given a guided tour. If you value your life, DON'T bring a glass of red wine on the tour.

7. DO use your table manners. (If you need a refresher, check this out)

8. DO keep an eagle eye on your kids at all times! And their food.

9. DON'T start a heated political discussion during dinner. You will ruin everyone's appetite, will never be invited back, and the Host might even serve you laxative in your coffee for ruining the perfectly planned evening. Actually, don't start a political discussion period. This is not a forum, it's a party. Can't keep your mouth shut? Stuff it. Literally. With food.

10. DO leave your strange non-medically necessary non-religious self-imposed food restrictions at home. Or eat ahead of time, then just push your food around your plate a la Gwyneth Paltrow. Or just politely decline the invitation altogether. (A good Host will ask about legit food allergies and will be willing to accommodate. Within reason. But if you expect an-organic-gluttenfree-antioxidantrich-acai-berry-cake-made-locally-by-a-crueltyfree-baker-who-swears-he's-never-even-seen-a-peanut served on a PCB-and-BPA-free plates, you better be the one hosting.)

Guest's Guide to Bringing Food

1. Thou Shall NOT Chop! Whatever it is you're bringing, has to arrive fully assembled and cooked (microwave friendly), or arrive pre-cut (and pre-mixed in case of a salad dressing) and ready to be assembled. No, there is no room for you on the counter to work, no there are no extra cutting boards, or knives, or mixing bowls, or olive oil, etc. See Rule 5 above.

2. Bring your own serving vessel, unless the Host told you that one will be provided. Expect to take your dish back home still dirty. Or use serveware you're willing to part with and just leave it behind (Don't ever ask for it back, it's in the Goodwill pile).

3. DON'T touch that oven! I guarantee there is food already there. Brought something that needs reheating? Better make sure it works in the microwave. Remember Rule 5: Stay out of the kitchen!

4. Not all kitchen disposers are created equal. Just because yours grinds through a small animal, doesn't mean your Host's can. So if you're cleaning out the dish you brought so you can take it home, use the garbage can. Because if you blow your Host's disposer, and they have to call the plumber, you will never be invited back. Trust me, the Host will know exactly who broke their kitchen because the evidence will be all over the floor. And the plumbers (charging double because it's a holiday) love to explain in detail exactly what they just pulled out of the drain.

5. Don't bring anything that requires refrigeration-until-serving time. Because there is no room in the fridge for you. Plus, the fridge is in the kitchen. What do you do with Host's kitchen? Stay out of it!

6. Best food to bring? A dessert. If the Host asks you to "bring something" volunteer to supply the dessert. Then go to a gourmet store and buy something decadent. That will guarantee you an invitation back.

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