Most Outposters, given the opportunity, like entertaining people in crowds. Even when they do not do so, they appear to believe that feeding the guests exhausts the degree of involvement necessary to make them feel welcome; Outposters somehow seem to feel it is not necessary to, say, make guests feel comfortable, talk to them (unless of course to check that they are satisfied with the food or that they are being served) — let alone entertain them. Guests are somehow supposed to fend for themselves, even if they don’t know anyone else.
We realised the above even before Jod moved here, when I was still on my own in the Outpost and she was just visiting, invited to lunch and then totally forgotten about or, again, on Easter Day 2003 or 2004 — can’t remember — when what we took to be a personal invitation to celebrate with friends’ immediate family turned out to be a huge impersonal eating and drinking extravaganza, a massive Villagefest, with a village of 200 (all of them somehow related to each other) participating en masse.
We had to be once more reminded of this unpleasant situation last night when we got invited for an after-wedding dinner party. Of course, there were 90 guests. Of course we were on time, meaning that food would not be ready for another 2 hours (we must learn to be late, late, late — dammit). I was given by the bride’s mother a pile of sweets and was placed on a sofa to be chatted to by another guest (the other Compatrido among the guests) whereas Jod, being a woman, was rushed to the kitchen to help prepare salads and roll dough. Actually, Jod was placed on a level of esteem slightly higher than mine, as I — despite being a man — was not respectively asked by the menfolk to help them stick the meat chunks (what else) through the many spits that would be turning for the next two hours.
After an hour or so, when we wondered where our actual hosts, the bride and the groom, were, we were shown their living room, where they were watching Animal Planet (everyone in that family is hooked on it), or playing cards, or petting the crippled pet iguana, or drinking, or all of the above. Shortly afterwards Jod, overwhelmed by a sense of ‘why did you bother inviting us’, exploded in public (tsk! tsk! tsk!), sending ripples of disapproval and horror among the Outposters present, who once more confirmed their stereotypes about the irrationally confrontational ways of Compatridos.
All the above accentuating a sense of choking that has been clear and present for weeks. Thankfully, there is still Debbie’s Cookies, with free lemonade and coffee.