Let's talk about all those holiday parties you're going to lately. If you're like me, half of these are imaginary, and you used the fact of December to cavort around the city picking up trifles (like a perfectly hideous metal tray with a faux-vintage cartoon on it that says "Smart Women Crave Good Company!") that you thought would make perfect "hostess gifts."
1. No one likes that tray. 2. Hostess gifts! What?! 3. Never show up empty-handed.
The good will of throwing a party is multiplied for everyone when you bring a thoughtful quelque chose for your host. Think: a bottle of wine in an organza bag, an adorable corkscrew that looks like a little girl (ahem, I swear, this one really is adorable), a plate of cookies--heck, a fruitcake or some pretty flowers.
People say not to bring flowers because they make extra work for the host who has to look for a vase, take time out of her party-readying schedule. I say don't bring crappy flowers (dyed blue carnations in cellophane), and don't bring flowers to a party that's not in someone's home (gorgeous day lilies always end up left on the stool of a bar). Otherwise, I think flowers are a swell gift.
Above, my favorite gift to give/receive this year, a sparkling malbec wine. Bring it chilled, like champagne, (bubbles! holiday cheer! happy new year!) but it's red wine, which makes it strange and special and it's delicious and not too sweet, like lambrusco can be.
I'd like to take the opportunity to point out three ways in which you can avoid beiing a total jackass this holiday season and forevermore. I insist that you:
1. Always RSVP. And in a timely fashion. 2. Bring a gift. 3. Send a thank-you note.
Let me add to that: If you RSVP that you will be attending, you need to show up. People are planning, cooking, buying hooch, making placecards. It doesn't matter if it's for a tiny soiree or a big "function." If you can't make it, you call. If you can't call, you send an email or call the next day to apologize. Come on, people. You're in high demand, but not so much that you can afford to offend others.
Previously: How to Regift With Panache
Update! Look! The Times takes on another deliciously intolerable etiquette mistake of the modern age: The Evite.