I try to do the right thing. Say “please” and “thank you.” Defer to those older than I—which is getting harder, as just about everybody seems younger than I am nowadays. But certain niceties seem to elude me. I forget.

Martha Stewart would never attend a dinner party without a hostess gift. A nice bottle of wine. Homemade cookies. Rosemary roasted cashews. Of course, Martha would hand wrap them in gift paper she stenciled herself, and there would be a hand-inked gift tag tied with decorative twine.

Martha probably has an entire room of her current residence dedicated to these gifts, which I am sure she keeps on hand for those “last minute” gift occasions. I know she also has a room dedicated to gift WRAPPING. My God.

I, on the other hand, am very happy to be invited someplace, but I spend my time beforehand concentrating on what I am going to wear. This is due to the fact that I don’t have an actual wardrobe any more. Since I became a writer, all I have to put on in the mornings is a pair of leggings and a tee shirt. I get a lot of tee shirts from my daughter, so most of them have sayings on them pertaining to either horses or Pitbull dogs. Thus, going out to dinner incites panic, and I rush out immediately to Old Navy, hoping to find something flattering and appropriate. When that doesn’t work, I go to Land’s End. If all fails, I go to Chico’s, where tunics rule.

Since I am so flustered about looking acceptable, it never dawns on me until about an hour before we are due to leave that I should bring something. Too late to pop into the store for some Chardonnay.

My husband suggests peanuts. But we have eaten half of the jar. A candle? I only have citronella left over from last summer—hardly applicable in December. I briefly consider that package of cocktail napkins, but they have balloons on them. Minutes tick by. My husband pulls out a pack of kitchen matches with roosters on them. Ugh. We consider those room deodorizers in the décor packages, but decide that might be insulting. Getting desperate, my husband suggests the three jars of strawberry jam we stole from the B and B on vacation. They look sort of festive. But I don’t have a gift bag, and just handing somebody a fistful of jelly seems crass.

Wait—we have those movie passes! No. Grasping at straws.

So we do what we always do. We show up empty-handed and pitiful, just hoping that some other schmucks also forgot to bring anything. Thank God Martha Stewart has never invited us over…

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