Come As You Are: What the Guests of Your Party, Your Life, Really Want - You as Featured in The Pioneer Issue

Come As You Are: What the Guests of Your Party, Your Life, Really Want - You

Story by Meredith Peebles also featuring Styling by Jessica Sloane, Photography by Austin Gros, Calligraphy by Early June and Florals by Vintage Florals

When my husband and I were shopping around for homes a couple of years ago, one of the biggest wish list items we had was a kitchen that opened up to a nice living room for entertaining. This seems to be a top wish list item for just about everyone I know. In addition to confirming the love we all share for a top notch open floor plan, this also confirms a fact we all know: people are meant to coexist and crave a sense of community. At a most basic level it begins with a nuclear family when you are child. As we grow older that community expands to include our significant others and eventually maybe children of our own. The friends that journey in and out of our lives along the way are as integral a part of our community as our families.

Friendship, like anything else in life that truly matters, takes work in order to be successful. While I’d love for a healthy body to be a naturally occurring phenomenon, I have to put forth a concerted effort to eat clean and workout regularly in order to be that way (just so you know I wrote this sentence while simultaneously enjoying an ice cream bar). And I’d also really, really love for my dogs to be well behaved without us having to work to train them; although this might not be the greatest of examples because one of our dogs still does whatever she wants despite hours upon hours of training. At least she’s small and really cute, right? Thankfully working on a friendship is much more enjoyable than working to train a dog. Although at a minimum both really only require time, friendship demands your whole presence.

You. Wholly you. That is honestly all your friends want from you. That’s it! Dang it that we make it so much more complicated. In our minds we’ve made it out that we can invite friends over for a meal only if it’s eight courses that would make Julia Child proud. And our house better be spotless. Not a trace of dirt or dust anywhere. No doggie tails can be wagged spreading hairs after I run this vacuum, don’t even think about it. If we stop and think for a quick second though, when your friends thank you for having them over a week after the fact, they aren’t thanking you for having a museum for a home or serving the best rack of lamb they have ever tasted. They are thanking you for your time: time to laugh, time to share, time to listen, and time for guards to be let down.

When my husband reads this he’s going to laugh and tell me to take my own words to heart. While I’ll happily order pizza when we have people over because my cooking skills are marginal at best, I’m insane about having a clean house. Insane. On a normal day when it’s just us at the house I’m still pretty crazy about everything being in its place, no crumbs in sight in the kitchen, every bed made. The second we invite friends over which we often like to do, I for some reason lose my mind and all of a sudden my house becomes an enemy to be conquered with cleaning supplies. A little dust isn’t going to cause my friends to contract the bubonic plague, but I surely act like that’s the case. I suppose this comes from a place of fearing rejection and craving acceptance. But it seems to me that I’ve really misguided where this effort is to be emphasized. My friends aren’t going to accept me more because my house is the cutest or cleanest they’ve been in recently, they accept me because of who I am as a person.

If we are honest, this behavior transcends beyond entertaining into human interactions. It’s our nature to want to put the best version of ourselves on display always. This is at least what I like to tell myself; I’d like to think I’m not alone in wanting to hide some days because life is seemingly not going my way and I don’t want everyone I meet that day to know this. No one wants to be known as that girl who doesn’t have her stuff together. As a closet introvert who struggles with self-esteem, I’ve learned that this behavior is something I need to be very cognizant of. If I’m not careful I can quickly establish a pattern of turning down cherished opportunities for community because of personal insecurities. While admitting this fact is equal parts embarrassing and painful, I think it’s a truth that many of us struggle with to varying degrees.

Not long ago my husband and I were invited out with a group of our friends to a birthday dinner. Some nights when we are getting ready for evenings like this I have my mind made up hours before on what I’ll wear, how I’ll fix my hair, and what handbag I’ll carry. This particular night was not one of those easy evenings. Kid you not, I bet half of the dresses I own I tried on and I hated how every single one of them looked. Finally settling on a romper I thought made me look frumpy at best, only because we had to get out the door and naked was definitely not the look I was going for, we were off. I can guarantee you I was sour the entire way to dinner because I was feeling so insecure and far from my best. After being seated, I quietly whispered to one of my girlfriends how I wasn’t feeling super cute that evening and she laughed and remarked how she thought the romper was really fun and was quite flattering. At that exact moment I went from feeling incredibly insecure to incredibly silly and even embarrassed. I could not believe that the very thing that was bordering on ruining my evening with friends was the same thing that those friends had positive things to say about.

That’s how life works a lot of the time I think. The same things that cause us the greatest insecurity are the same things people love about us because they are the things that make us unique, make us us. The feature I single handedly get complimented on the most is my skin. It’s very fair with freckles splashed on my nose and a hint of rose always on my cheeks. My coloring has not always been this way though. I can worship the sun with the best of them and growing up I always had a nice tan when I returned to school after summer vacation. However when I was nineteen I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and my sun worshipping came to an immediate halt. It was a huge adjustment to no longer have a bronze glow every summer and for several years I really hated how my skin looked with the absence of color. There were many invitations for afternoons lounging by the pool and lake trips that I chose to turn down only because I was feeling insecure and sorry for myself. What a shame that I passed on these opportunities with people I loved all because of something I was fixated on that no one else thought the slightest negative thing about.

When we get down to it, coming as you are is the only way to approach life. It’s exhausting and unsustainable to hide behind elaborate dinner parties, meticulously kept homes, perfectly pressed garments and forced smiles constantly. Life can be stressful and silly and crazy, but it’s that way for all of us. Everyone has experienced a hectic day at work that prevents that last minute stop at the grocery store on your way home. Wine and cheese in yoga pants or wine and lobster tails in a favorite dress, it doesn’t matter. You giving of your time and of yourself to those you care about is all that matters. Honestly the less time and effort you focus on whether or not your recent flourless chocolate torte turned out like the inspiration picture, the more time and effort you have to focus on pouring into the lives of those in your community. Toss any insecurities aside, step into the moment, live, and love. That’s really all anyone wants from you.

Note from Dinner Host Jessica Sloane who created the visual inspiration of this story -

As artists, it's easy to get wrapped up in our own dreams and inspirations. But our art improves when we our limits are stretched and challenged by the community around us. I've been reading the book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table as a reminder to why we come together and how sharing your journey with others enriches your life. I love this quote from the book:

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” So I gathered some fellow creatives and we each brought to the table what we had to offer and shared an evening, a meal, a conversation. “So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand.” - Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes.

Honey & Sage Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

15 fresh sage leaves

Honey Sage Bourbon Cocktail

1 1/2 to 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon

honey and sage infused simple syrup

1 orange peel

1 sprig fresh sage

In a pot over high heat, bring water, honey, and sage to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool completely. Remove sage. Once the syrup has cooled, fill your glass of choice with ice. Pour bourbon over ice and top off (fill the glass) with the simple syrup. Squeeze the orange peel over the bourbon to release the oils and place the peel in the glass. Stir and garnish with sage.

Brown Butter & Sage Pasta Sauce

3⁄4 cup (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter

12 to 15 fresh sage leaves

1⁄2 cup (2 oz./60 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sage leaves. Cook until the sage leaves are crisp and the butter is brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the ravioli to the pan, 6 at a time, and turn very gently to coat with the brown butter. Transfer the ravioli to a serving dish. Top with the remaining butter and sage leaves in the pan, sprinkle with the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 6.