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True Luxury: If You're Not Having Fun, Lower Your Standards


Plastic silverware and stained shirts are probably more fun and definitely cheaper.

There was a time I loved Martha Stewart. Well, actually I loved her magazine, Martha Stewart Living. Since I had already succumbed to the cheap side of the force, there was no way I was going to actually buy a subscription. But oh, those glossy magazines I took out of the library and saw at the dentist's office -- Swoon.

I remember hosting my first few family dinners. Simply stuffing a turkey with bread chunks and roasting it wasn't going to be good enough for me. We were going to kick it up a notch! (Wait, that was before Emeril.)

The turkey was going to be smoked, stuffed with truffles, and have those fancy paper things covering the legs. Everyone was going to have fancy die-cut name cards. I was going to be a party goddess! People were going to be wowed! Impressed! They'd even ignore my extraneous use of exclamation points!!!

Or at least that was the theory.

The reality of my parties was, well, not so much. At the time, it was me, a baby, and a toddler getting ready for parties. The kids were long on cute but surprisingly unreasonable about the importance of having a soufflé rise just right. It was hard to actually impress my store-brand cheese puff and deviled egg family. Honestly, I was so stressed about the parties everyone including myself hated them.

I found out after that Martha Stewart has an extraordinarily large staff. In fact, she has a company's worth of cooks, maids, gardeners, and decorators employed at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO). In other words, I'd been suckered into an illusion that was almost impossible to replicate without extraordinary amounts of money. No actual middle class homemaker with children like myself was going to replicate what they saw except at great time and expense.

And so we don't try anymore to have Martha Stewart-type soirées. Our family gatherings now follow the easy and cheap arrangement of potluck dinners. Generally, people eat off my normal dinner plates or paper plates. We have "party" glasses, which are plastic Dixie cups. Our "silverware" is heavy duty plastic acquired from the grocery store. Everything gets thrown in the dishwasher so we don't throw out perfectly good utensils after one use. If something gets lost or broken, it's no big deal.

Please understand I'm not down on those who truly enjoy black-tie affairs. If you love throwing Martha Stewart-type parties, I'm all for it and please invite me. I'll try to keep furniture stains to a bare minimum. And, more seriously, it's fun to dress up every once in while.
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