-Illustrations by Charlotte Shen
Ok, I know, I know. Relationships are important. Socializing is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy emotional state. Friendships are important for many reasons, both material and esoteric. You can treat your family like dirt, they’ll still be related to you, they can’t do anything about it (kidding!), but fostering friendships requires one to develop and nurture qualities like humility, sharing, cooperation, compromise – in other words, they force us to TRY. Try to be better, try to be helpful, supportive and..well, friendly! That doesn't come naturally for all of us.
But what if you’re a social-avoider by nature? People like me tend to come up with a litany of excuses for not making it out to the reunion dinner, bar, or dinner party at a friend’s home. Many of them are pretty legit – I have a six-year-old son who is, to say the least, a handful, and very demanding of my time and attention. And, truth be told, he’s pretty much my best friend anyway, the person I most want to hang out with, notwithstanding his often incredibly annoying and sometimes exasperating behaviors. What that says about me is a topic for another therapy session.
Nevertheless, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I heard the “Good News for Homebodies”, that “Staying In is The New Going Out!” More recently, the grim and sobering news about Covid 19 spreading rampantly around the world made me feel even more justified in just chillin’ in my crib and waiting things out. I may have started a couple of years early, but now I was right on time.
Well, after a couple of years of straight hermiting, I realized that there might be a good and a bad way to stay home for months on end. It somehow dawned on me that the internet and my kid were both lacking something I might need: legitimate adult feedback and interaction.
Let me spare you the details of the symptoms that tipped me off to that.Just be happy to know that, if you’re a homebody like me, and a little “going out to gather”-averse, there are ways to foster social connections without having to leave your own cozy confines!
Here’s how to keep everyone happy, well fed (and well-drunk if you so choose!) and entertained from the warmth and comfort of your own home!
1. Prepare Healthy snacks
Keep everyone in good health and mood as well as gastronomically satisfied by NOT spiking their blood sugar and cholesterol with junky snacks like cake, soda and potato chips! It’s not too hard to come up with some more loving options to show you really do care. Munchies like veggie sticks, chicken skewers, popcorn, etc. are way better than the above-mentioned salt/sugar/transfat bombs! If you wanna be more creative but you’re stumped for ideas, Pinterest is always a good place to start – check these tantalizingly wholesome party snacks for inspiration!
2. BYOB Wine Tasting
The idea here is that everyone brings a bottle of their favorite wine (craft beer is another way to go here depending on the preferences of the majority) and do blind taste test!
Tips: Set a dollar limit per bottle that your guests will be comfortable with – most will be happy to offset the cost of those yummy snacks you’ve prepared - and do rounds of tasting interspersed with snacking to bring the palate back to baseline, dilute the delirium and delay the drunkenness that might end the tasting before it has run its course. Provide a way for guests to take notes on the drinks they’ve sampled, so you can accurately unveil the winners at the end!
3. Pub Quiz
This tried and true drinking / gathering activity is loads of fun, especially if your crowd has a competitive streak! Prepare a list of questions on topics of interest and a prize for the winning team! Feeling a little clueless as to how you’ll come up with enough good questions? No problem, there’s a website for that! Just go to https://pubquizquestionshq.com/categories, choose from a long list of categories and voila! A list of great questions and answers is right there waiting!
4. Board Games
What’s more to say here? Almost everyone loves playing board games, whether the classic ones they grew up with or some of the newer, trendier board games. Pictionary, Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Risk, Clue, or Poker!
Two words of caution – make sure everyone is “on board” with the notion that we’re playing for fun and, if any incentives/punishments are added or inherent to the game, don’t make them so severe as to potentially ruin someone’s fun! No one wants to be the host who caused their friend to miss rent because they lost a thousand bucks at a “friendly game of poker”!
5. International potluck
Food is one of, if not the most powerful way to spread good will among nations and, of course, among friends! Everyone brings a dish from a different country/culture/cuisine, and if you’re lucky enough to have friends with rotts around the globe, you’re in for some real treats, literally – and a heart/gut-warming gathering to boot! Add in a little good music and lighting, and tell your friends to share a little about the dish, it’s ingredients and story!
6. Scavenger Hunt
Not just for kids’ birthdays or Jack and Jill Parties, Scavenger or Treasure Hunts can be a great way to promote cooperative interaction and hey, they’re just plain fun! Prepare a series of clues and items for everyone to follow and collect in order to win the grand prize!
7. Play charades
An oldie, but a goodie! Around in some form since the 18th century, charades is a tried and true method of animating a party or get together – literally. If by some sad miracle you’ve never been exposed to charades, here’s how it works:
- Players divided into two or more exclusive teams.
- A notebook or scraps of paper, used for one team to write the answer(s) to be performed by a member of the other side. The answer(s) may be restricted to dictionary words, titles of artistic works, etc. to limit the difficulty. Words which cannot be explained other than by spelling (e.g., the or of) may be excluded from play except within larger phrases.
- A silent performance by the player to his or her teammates. To enforce a focus on physical acting out of the clues, silent mouthing of the words for lipreading, spelling, and pointing are generally banned. Humming, clapping, and other noises may be banned as well.
- A clock, timer, hourglass, etc. to limit the teams' guesses.
- A scoreboard or sheet to tally the teams' points: one for every correctly guessed answer and one for every answer the opposing team failed to guess within the allotted time.
- Alternation of teams until every player has acted at least once.