Tips For How To Be The Worst Hostess

by admin on February 28, 2011

It’s been over a year since I attended this baby shower which was a train wreck from beginning to end. I hope that I can remember all of the details to convey the horror we experienced over the hostess’ behavior.

I went through a training class at my current place of employment. After getting out of the training class, we were all divided up and sent to various pre-established units throughout the building, as that is the way that our office is organized. It is a well known custom in the office that small bridal and baby showers are thrown for employees by the members of their unit, which are generally nice little potluck affairs.  People bring a small gift (a pack of baby onesies from target, etc) and it’s a modest celebration that doesn’t put anyone out too much and allows everyone to use a little extra company time to socialize than their lunch break would normally allow.

A few months after we separated into units, one of our fellow trainees, “Melissa,” had found out she was pregnant. We knew she was struggling with this revelation as she had just recently moved to our city after separating from her husband, who we had already learned had not been the best of fathers or husbands. One of the girls from our training class, “Cassie,” told us all that she knew that Melissa didn’t have friends or family close by, and because of this would like to throw a baby shower for her and invite all of the former trainees and a few of Melissa’s friends. Even though I had always found Cassie to be a bit abrasive, I thought it was a sweet gesture for her to go above and beyond the normal office-standard so that we could possibly get Melissa some of the bigger items that we knew it would be difficult for her to afford one her own (we all were hired at the same modest salary, and I still don’t know how she stretches that for her and the two kids she already has). I and several of the girls from the office told Cassie we would love to attend, just let us know when and where.

Cassie let us know when and where – and how much. She told us that it was to take place at one of the swankier uptown clubs – think country club inside of a sky scraper – where she used to work. We were all to get $25 dollars to her for the cost of our meals. I was taken aback that Cassie was “hosting” a party we were all supposed to pay for. She also told us that she couldn’t afford alcohol, but if anyone else wanted she would “sneak some white wine in.” I didn’t think it was appropriate for the other guests to be drinking when the guest of honor clearly couldn’t, but again kept my opinions to myself.  Cassie proceeded to tell us over the next two months how she was planning so much for the party and how she “didn’t know planning a baby shower took this much effort.”

Well, apparently her version of planning a baby shower and mine are different. Her planning, as became apparent, meant buying a pair of hooker platform heels online along with a short brown patterned dress with a puffy red crinoline which showed off way too much of her assets. As soon as I and the other coworkers got there, we saw her standing with a hand on her hip, other hand poised with a full wine glass which she proclaimed was her “third of the morning.” And when she was getting her hair and nails professionally done (for a baby shower?) she shared with us that they had been generous with the “flirtinis”. She then shared with us some “bad news.” Apparently, she had banned the guest of honor from bringing her children and told her she needed to find a sitter. How a single mother of modest resources and new to the city is supposed to find a sitter for Saturday afternoon is unknown to me, but apparently Melissa had found one; however, the sitter had backed out two weeks before the shower and Melissa had been unable to secure a new one. Cassie shared with us how peeved she was Melissa didn’t have a back up sitter and that it took “some nerve” to bring her kids to this event as she was supposedly about to do.

Once we were all assembled, Cassie took another gulp of wine and, after scanning the room with a critical eye, announced  that we all “better remember this” when she gets pregnant. We then served ourselves awkwardly from a few nice looking platters of sandwiches and fruit (which did not look to be $25 worth). There were no games and the hostess made no efforts to introduce people or get conversation started – she simply sat back with her nose in the air, waiting for people to talk with her and shooting disdainful looks at Melissa’s energetic children. They may have been a little more active then I would normally have liked, but were clearly providing the only entertainment.

After the meal and forced conversation were over, we encouraged Melissa to open her gifts. Cassie just stared at her, and so another of Melissa’s friends (thankfully realizing Cassie would be no help) whipped out some extra paper and a pen and offered to keep track of names/gifts. Melissa graciously thanked everyone for their gifts.  Cassie looked unimpressed and shot a few more angry looks at the children. Melissa opened Cassie’s gift which was supposedly some really nice, obscure baby related item. Melissa thanked Cassie for it as graciously as she had thanked all the other guests for their contributions, but Cassie looked (and later confirmed at work, several times), like she thought her gift deserved far more praise.  At last we moved on to the cake which Cassie made a point of letting everyone know that she had paid $70 for – I don’t think I’ll forget that fact as long as I live. I nibbled on my cake and, after a few pictures were snapped, got out of there as fast as I could.

Next Monday, Cassie made it clear she felt that Melissa’s children had ruined the party and she couldn’t believe that Melissa had never purchased her a hostess gift. For my part, I received a lovely thank you note for my gift within a week. Since this shower Cassie had a mental breakdown at work and moved out of state to be close to her parents. I’ve heard she’s expecting a little boy this summer, and I just wonder who has had the honor of planning her shower. 0224-11

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

jenna March 2, 2011 at 12:13 am

Allie – they don’t *have* to be tedious (though you’re right that so many are). Step 1 for making showers more bearable: nix the games.

Same for weddings: they’re a lot more fun if you don’t do a million dances and toss random flowers and underwear at people. These are exactly the sorts of things that (I think – my opinion only!) make many wedding receptions less fun than a straight-up party.

If there is food, drink, music, space and a reasonable quotient of outgoing people with a good ratio of known attendees to new faces, people will make their own fun. There is no need to force fun with a bingo sheet. It’s not Team Building, it’s a party!

(but I’m with you on the drinks: I am fine with dry events but I always enjoy them more if there is a nip of something available, even at a shower – in my family’s showers they would have beer and wine for guests and high-end non-alcoholic alternatives for the mother-to-be).

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irish March 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm

@anotherloginname: You make a good point, your grandmother’s actions upset people and you are not obliged to forget all of them. But I think I still agree with Bint, because none of us knows Cassie. When you were personally deeply hurt by a person, it can be hard to forgive and pretend it didn’t happen. The OP wasn’t hurt by the event; though Melissa may have been it’s not as hard to forget an isolated event from someone you don’t really know.

Bint I’m impressed. The heart of the matter is, yes you’re entitled to judge, but do you really have to? Just because we’re all the best at etiquette here doesn’t mean we couldn’t be a little more compassionate.

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Jillybean March 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Hahaha – jenna! I love your “underwear toss” reference. Took a split second for me to realize you meant the garter and was thinking you’d been to some interesting weddings if people were tossing around their undies! LOL. But I agree – traditions are fine, but sometimes the traditional wedding “events” interupt the flow of the guests good time. It’s like everytime you get in the groove of things there’s another interuption for a chance for the bride and groom to be photographed doing something new. When I got married, my husband and I did a dance when we first got introduced into the reception, my mom made a toast before dinner, and then it was dinner followed by straight up party all night! We skipped the cake cutting, the bouquet and garter, the formal dances, etc. Everyone had a blast, and we got time to enjoy our guests.

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Enna March 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

And as for alcohol – the only time it is acceptable for a woman to have a drink is if she has one when she does NOT know she is pregnant or its a sip like a mouthful of white wine diluted with lemonade. I think with parties it does depend on the situation – some religions/demoniations groups don’t drink. Some do.

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jenna March 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Enna – do you mean the only time it is acceptable for a PREGNANT woman to have a drink?

I personally agree with you – if I were to ever get pregnant I would not drink at all (but I do not intend to have children so this is not a likely situation).

That said, there are many doctors, even OB/GYNs, who would disagree with you and say that a very small amount of alcohol, such as a glass of wine per week, is actually fine for a pregnant woman. In France it is fairly normal to drink lightly while pregnant. The same is true for caffeine (up to one cup of coffee per day is apparently fine, but not more).

So unless you are an OB/GYN, I would advise against stating a blanket claim on what is and isn’t medically acceptable for an expecting woman, and I’d advise any expecting woman who reads this to listen to her qualified doctor on these subjects, not comments on an online forum!

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Enna March 5, 2011 at 8:40 am

No I did not mean that at all. What happens if a woman has a glass of wine not knowing she is pregnant at the time but finds out 3 weeks later she is 4 months gone? Sometimes women don’t have symptons such as morning sickness and they still “bleed”. There have been cases in the news that women have been pregnant and hadn’t relaised they were until they gave birth – it happens with women of the age they are going through the “change” and their doctors have taken them off the pill and put them on HRT instead. One woman who this happened to was actually smoking and drinking the night before she gave birth but she DID NOT know. She was told that she was menopausal by her doctor.

I’m SORRY it came across otherwise. I am not justifying bindge drinking at all.

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Enna March 5, 2011 at 8:43 am

I meant to say the only time it would be exceptable for a woman to drink whilst prengant is if she did NOT know at the time she was expecting. It was a typo.

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jenna March 7, 2011 at 9:00 am

Enna – my point is that there are doctors who would disagree with you, and it’s actually quite common to drink lightly while knowingly pregnant in some parts of the world – in France nobody would think twice if you ordered a glass of wine with dinner while visibly showing.

I personally agree (I wouldn’t drink if pregnant), but if you’re not a doctor, is it such a good idea to decide what it is and is not acceptable for pregnant women to do?

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Not one of us March 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm

When I was having my 2nd child my MIL said she would be stopping by and we planned to BBQ. Along with her were my wonderful Husbands’ 5 sisters, 2 fiances, and 7 children. I was informed that this was going to be my family baby shower.

I immediately started worrying because I only had food for 4 people and they didn’t seem to have any food in their hands. I made my Husband run to the store and the family just sat in my living room.

I cooked all the food and they sat. They ate and then presented me with my “presents” a small package (30 of diapers).

They left, leaving behind all the mess and not a single offer for help.

When I had my 3rd child I told him if they tried to throw me a surprise shower again, I’d divorce him.

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Enna March 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Okies. I was embrassed by the mistkae I had made in that post. I didn’t mean it to come across that I was telling ppl what to do!

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Enna March 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Maybe there should be a discussion on “emails with the wrong word/missing word in them”.

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OP March 10, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Note even sure if I want to post here to get blasted, but I did want to clear something up in regards to the “mental breakdown” that’s been the subject of debate.

Mental breakdown was not the term I should have used. I tried to proof read this before I sent it in, but obviously missed this, which makes me particularly ashamed of myself as I know people who have had legitmate, commited-to-a-mental-hospital breakdowns. I shouldn’t have included the terms of her leaving at all, and I don’t want to further dig myself into a hole by going into specifics, but it was more along the lines of temper tantrum, not the I-need-to-be commited situation. I do apologize to anyone who has had mental trauma by flipantly stating that it was a “mental breakdown.” And no, I by no means think that being a lacking hostess means that someone should have something as awful as a mental or physical health disaster happen to them in return.

I certainly don’t fault anyone for wanting to get a new outfit or hair done for an event, it was more that the dress was inappropriate for any formal (or informal) occasion, she kept drawing attention to it, and commenting on what a chore it was to have to find a dress on the internet months ahead of time and to get all dolled up for the occasion.

@ gramma dishes: I wish I had volunteered to watch the guest of honor’s kids. It would have taken a lot of stress off of her and they were a blast

@ Beth: I didn’t sit there in silence. We tried to make conversation (about work), what was awkward was that the hostess was at our table silently stewing about the lack of attention being paid to her, even after we complimented her about everything looking lovely, which made it very difficult to keep the conversation light and fun.

Unfortunately, this was the first baby shower I’ve ever attended outside of work. Having read multiple etiquette sites since, I’ve learned about when and how I can tactfully decline, and how to recognize the red flags ahead of time that I need to back out.

As for Melissa, she did have a beautiful, healthy baby who has been nothing but a joy to her mother, and it’s great to see her face light up every time she talks about her new bundle of joy.

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