At 4 yesterday I went hiking in the rain and ran into a couple I know and invited them by our house for drinks at 6. My wife was grateful for the distraction from the winter blues; she got out peanuts and hummus and potato chips left over from the football marathon Sunday, and I got a fire going. These friends are somewhat eggheady and we talked about the left’s inability to match Rush Limbaugh’s earnestness, whether misanthropy is the correct position to take re humanity, whether the Pyramids were built by slaves or willing laborers, and if you get to choose whether you become a nutter or if that’s hardwired. I enjoyed all these topics and threw myself into them.
When they left my wife had an expression I’ve come to recognize, of resignation/salvage operation. I said, How was I? OK, she allowed. I wasn’t too hectory? Once or twice you raised your voice, she said. Then she said, "Have you ever just agreed with someone to be nice? Has that ever occurred to you? That as the host, you should try and make a person feel welcome here and that you could just agree with what they’re saying, some idea they’ve had, instead of trying to argue with them; that it makes things go smoother?" I had to think about it. Then she said that the way she was bred, the goal of a party was to make your guests feel good, to have them leave feeling that they’d had a good time. "That’s just the way I was raised."
I saw the wisdom in her comments and she and I agreed on a social signal. The next time she thinks I’m being competitive with a guest, she’s going to hold her forefinger to the left side of her nose. That way I’ll know.