September 22, 2009

No I can't juggle or breath fire or pull coins out of your ears

How in heaven's name did "entertaining" come to describe the heart warming practice of a person/family inviting you and perhaps a few others over to enjoy a some combination of food, conversation, and possibly cards or a board game? Every time I hear someone say "but of course we love to entertain" my brain conjures up two rival images. One image consists of people shining, polishing, and otherwise gilding their home in the hopes of dazzling the less fortunate the elegance, creativity, and tasteful ostentation of their domestic life. In this sense "entertaining" is understood to refer to that sentiment which prompts people to pay enormous fees to walk around the elegantly furnished homes of people long since dead. At least in the former instance one may reasonably expect refreshment. The second image that comes to mind is that of guests sitting around in expectant silence waiting for their host to do something astonishing such as burst out into an aria or tell a selection of appropriate humorous anecdotes. And here I thought that by cleaning up my apartment and messing up my kitchen to have friends over for a meal I was practicing hospitality. If you want entertainment there's a movie theater down the street. Otherwise I have some homemade bolognese sauce and a bottle of wine that I'd dearly love to share if you can condescend to not being entertained for a single evening.

I know in many ways it's a silly and meaningless usage, but I do rather feel that it obscures what I feel should be happening when people invite other people into their lives for a time. When the emphasis is on entertaining I get a sense more of showing off one's possessions or conversation. However, when one extends hospitality the emphasis seems to be more on making room in your life (however temporarily) for another person and their interests. Entertaining wants crab cakes and champagne. Hospitality might enjoy crab and champagne as much as the next person but will happily make do with hamburgers and iced tea. Of the two I would rather practice hospitality.

1 comment:

TBE said...

You could just do what I do, Natster: assume everything you say is the most profound and hilarious thing your guests have ever heard, and then not worry about anything else.

It's worked wonders--I hardly have to be bothered with 'entertaining' at all anymore! :)