Inviting People Over, Inviting People In

I very rarely have friends over to my house. It just feels like there’s always a good reason not to: I’m too busy. It’s too much work. I can’t afford to make a fancy meal. My house is a mess.

I’m always game for meeting up for lunch at a restaurant, or a play date in the park. But bringing people into my home feels harder. More exposed. A bigger challenge.

As I’ve reflected this year on my own feelings of isolation and disconnection, I’ve come to wonder whether these “reasons” are actually just excuses—artificial barriers I’ve constructed to keep my private life private, and to stave off the vulnerability of showing my friends what’s behind the scenes of my less-than-perfect life.

But my Project Reconnect challenge for February was focused on opening up—finding ways to tell my story with my whole heart in order to lay the groundwork for genuine connection and closeness. And my weeks spent reflecting on the importance of embracing vulnerability as a pathway to connection have led me to consider how I can do a better job of literally—not just metaphorically—inviting people into my life.

Whether or not others share my trepidation about inviting friends over I can’t be sure, but according to sociologists, one of the clearest trends in Americans’ socializing habits over the past few decades has been a marked decline in the frequency with which we entertain in our homes. Similarly, neighborly get-togethers have shown a steady drop since 1940. But, on the other hand, rates of socializing outside the home have risen. We’re now more likely to meet friends at a softball game or a bar than to invite them over for dinner or a barbecue. The “why” behind these trends is less clear, but the reality is stark: we are living in a cultural moment where there is a growing bifurcation between our private home life and our public social life.

Could the fact that our attempts to connect and create community happen largely outside our homes—separate from the epicenter of our lives—be a driver of our widespread loneliness? This month, I’ll try to find out.

My Project Reconnect challenge for the month of March will be to host people in my home at least once a week. That will mean 4 gatherings of friends and neighbors in my home in just 30 days.

Considering that I haven’t hosted a dinner party more than two or three times since I was a newlywed (which was over a decade ago) this isn’t going to be easy. But I’m curious to see how opening my home and beginning to hone my hospitality skills might help me feel more connected. And how replacing a night of Netflix with a gathering of friends each week might help me develop a greater sense of community.

And so I’m off to a month of hosting. Cheers!

I'm a writer who's spending 2019 engaging in a yearlong personal journey back to community, connection, and relationship. It's called Project Reconnect. Join me!

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