Christmas Scrooge alert: I hate hosting. There, I've said it.
So now you know the truth behind the smile that greets you at the door should you ever turn up at mine - it's a grimace.
'Come in, let me take your coat,' I say. Or we could just hover on the doorstep. That's fine too.
'Cup of tea?' To go?
It's nothing personal. I'm just not an 'all back to mine' 'door's always open' type, no matter how much I want to be. I need a booking policy and a last orders bell. I live in fear of people 'popping in' unexpectedly and settling in for the night. Please don't bring your slippers, they give me palpitations.
I know I sound miserable but it's not you, it's me. Honest.
I'm a nervous host. Are you sitting comfortably? Probably not cos I'm fussing about whether you're too hot, cold, want a softer seat or if your elbows are sticking to the table cos I forgot to wipe up before you came.
The stress means my chat stinks - I'm too busy digging out the posh mugs and cursing my shabby tray for anything as trivial as conversation. And please don't tell me you take sugar. It's solidified into a massive lump and chiselling it in front of you is a cringe too far.
I hate having to explain my quirky house. Yes, the oven always sounds like it's taking off. The tap will drip unless you tweak it just so. But if you pee in the dark to save me the phaff of standing on a chair to reach the broken light pull in the downstairs loo, I'll love you forever.
Luckily my kids don't share any of my neurosis. Watching them P.A.R.T.Y at the two year old's birthday at the weekend was liberating.... In hindsight...
Here's what I learned.
- No need to dress for the occasion. Party clothes, hell, clothes in general, only slow you down.
- And if you want to wear your dressing gown over your party dress, that's your prerogative.
- Expect - nay, demand - visitors hand-over gifts before being allowed in, but feel no obligation to appreciate them.
- Conversation a bit stilted? Just shout louder.
- Don't be precious about decorations - balloons are for popping. Christmas Trees are for climbing. Christmas lights are for electrocuting.
- Not enough seats? Guests go on the floor. Besides, sitting down is for light-weights. A party isn't a party unless the sofa gets trashed and the table gets danced on.
- Food; no need to share or hold back. Hog it all, steal off your guest's plate and throw it over your shoulder when done.
- Music; sound tracks are overrated. Except Gangman Style on loop, obvs.
- Over it already? Guests boring you off? Don't let them keep you up.
- And finally, always remember, it's your party. You can cry if you want to.