Usually, when we travel to France, it’s because my husband is playing for some singer like Barbra Streisand or Liza Minnelli, so we get a few days here and there in various towns and have to try to see our friends as best we can.
This past August and September, we actually went to France for a couple of weeks and came home to serious withdrawal symptoms. After a few weeks back, we still couldn’t shake off the almost “homesick” feelings. In trying to pinpoint the reason, we realized that it had everything to do with the quality of time that we got to spend with our friends this visit – specifically, the small cocktail parties at everyone’s homes.
Now this seems simple, I realize, but our social scene in New York City tends to revolve around meeting our friends in bars or restaurants – rarely going to anyone’s apartment. People cite the small size of their apartment, or the need to include everyone – which, of course, ends up being a “party” and is a huge commitment. We’d been as guilty as anyone of this – before our son was born, if we thought of inviting people over, it always ended up being at least fifteen people, a huge beer, wine and food investment and cleaning up until four or five in the morning. After our son was born, meeting friends strictly involved a babysitter and settling on a specific restaurant or bar.
What struck us about our social scene in France this past fall was that all of our friends invited us for small, “cocktail hour” type gatherings at their homes. These parties were almost nightly and rarely involved more than four or six people in addition to the hosts. Our friends there live in a variety of dwellings – most live in small, New York-style apartments in Paris, one has a house in Paris and one friend lives in a castle. Yes, a castle – castle with a moat. The size of the place never mattered – there was always a small table of very good food, good wine and wonderful conversation.
We realized that we really would love to start having our New York City friends over for these little informal hangouts and so we started doing this once or twice a month. It has been such fun and we’ve so enjoyed seeing our friends in this non-hectic way. The great thing about putting our a tray of good cheese, bread, olives, salami and whatever else you come up with, is that people can help themselves whenever and if they want. The main gift of these little parties is the conversation.
The heart of the matter is that in France, my friends always ask, “HOW are you doing?” In New York, it’s always “WHAT are you doing?” Having a few people over for a fun evening of hanging out in your home, no matter the size, is way more conducive to the “how” mentality.
By Jackie Sanders