Today on The Art of Party Hosting Blog, Leigh’s sharing a particularly horrible pool party experience, in the spirit of exploring the DON’Ts of party hosting as much as we explore the DOs!

The hosts insisted I stay, and what happened next would throw me, someone who can talk to anyone and make friends wherever I go, into a state of the utmost awkward discomfort.

It was a pool party, a combined adult/child party because the husband, son and daughter had their birthdays in the same month, and the son was friends with my youngest son. My oldest son also knew their daughter, so they insisted that my oldest stay as well.

At the last second, the hostess insisted I stay. I had other plans to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in years, and he and his wife and new baby were passing through town. I had maybe twenty minutes to spare, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I said I could stay for a quick drink and then I had to leave, and come back in two hours to pick up my kids. She seemed pleased, offered me a drink and then disappeared for 30 minutes. I never got that drink.

The one person I did know there (her husband, we knew each other from the daily school run) chatted with me for a few minutes, then went to take a nap. No really.

I was left, with no introduction (here, talk to the girls, I’ll be right back) to talk to a tight-knit group of girlfriends, who went on talking about all the things they were doing without acknowledging me at all. My attempts to make conversation fell flat. When I got up from my pool chair to leave, they all turned their attention to me, said, “You need to relax, sit down and take a load off. What’s your name again?” They then proceeded to call me “Lisa” and tell me I was too uptight whenever I tried to get up to go.

I told my kids we had to go, made up excuses, but each time I tried to leave, the host would suddenly reappear and block my route out.

My youngest (eight years old) was in the pool and was being thrown off his floatation device by one of the older kids. My oldest was in the hot tub, and I could just barely hear the conversation between him and the other kids in there. “Why are you even here? Like, who invited you anyhow?” “I was told I should stay,” he meekly replied, and I knew, in that moment, that it wasn’t just me enduring this disaster, it was also my kids. It was time to leave. I got my youngest out of the pool, told my oldest to go change and that we were leaving. The “Girls” protested heavily. “No, stay! They are having fun! Right boys, you’re having fun, right?” (crickets)

I felt so trapped. I needed an escape plan – a second to think…

Finally I escaped the “girls” and went to find the washroom and try to find my way out of this mess. It was crazy to me that I, after two decades of throwing and attending parties as my career, I was now trying to duck out, unseen, from this party because I was feeling SO awkward and downright uncomfortable.

I entered the house – a mansion by all accounts… four stories high and sprawling. Surely, I thought, on the ground floor near the pool, a washroom might be nearby. As my eyes adjusted from sunshine to dim interior, I looked around – five doors, all closed. I knew their parents lived on this level and heard a man snoring (apparently nap time for everyone in that house), and now I had a problem – start opening doors and potentially walk in on a sleeping octogenarian, or try to find someone to direct me to the bathroom. To my left was a set of stairs. I had visited their main floor entry way to drop my son off a few times, and I knew there was a bathroom in the front entrance, so I made for the stairs.

Suddenly, the hostess appeared out of nowhere on the stairs (without my promised drink) and said, “Are you lost?” I laughed, because the answer was, quite honestly, yes, I was lost in her giant mansion, but her tone was accusatory, not friendly, so I decided my pithy comments should remain in my head. I told her I was looking for the bathroom. “Oh, it’s that door right there.” Middle of the five. Thank god. I scurried into the bathroom.

The person before me had done a number in there (number two, to be exact), and it was foul. There was also just the ends on the toilet paper roll with no back-up roll in sight. This stinky bathroom was still better than how awkward AF I felt outside, so I composed myself and devised a strategy.

I literally hid in the bathroom and planned our escape.

I had my kids leave first. My oldest was to meet my youngest at the side gate, take my keys and get in the car. I would inch, little by little, to that part of the sprawling yard, where my only chance of being seen was by the kids jumping on the trampoline.

It took me another 20 minutes to get to the gate, and gracefully sneak out. My kids were waiting in the car. Worried they would catch me before I could pull away (literally, I was worried she would jump in front of my car at this point!) I waited until all traffic on the street had passed to even start the engine, in case they heard it.

I drove until we were about three blocks away, then pulled over and sent a text, thanking them for the party but, unfortunately, we had to leave suddenly.

It was an escape worthy of the most cunning mystery writer ;)

All joking aside, how had it gotten to this point? How had a simple invitation to have a drink at a pool party ended in one of the worst party experiences I had ever had?

As a professional in this industry, I have spent a LOT of time replaying that, and many other – ahem – not great party experiences, to try to hone my own skills and bring our community of party hosts great tips, via our blog, email newsletter, podcast, videos etc. This one party has always stuck with me as being one that hit on so many things that can make our guests feel horribly uncomfortable at our parties.

In all my years of party hosting, I have noticed that there can be one or two people who feel uncomfortable about attending a mystery party, until they get there, are made to feel at home and comfortable by the host, are accepted by the guests and can relax enough to actually start enjoying themselves, and as hosts, its our job to set the scene for relaxing into fun at every party.

I’m putting together an article on things that people hate about going to parties, and would love to hear from you, our experienced hosts. What’s something you dislike (taking off your shoes is one we keep hearing), has left you in a pinch (no toilet paper) or just generally made you feel uncomfortable (not knowing anyone)? We want to hear from you! The story I tell about the Pool Party from Hell hits so many of these things that make guests feel uncomfortable, so let’s share our Party Pet Peeves so we can all up our party hosting skills! More on this to come – in the meantime, host awesome parties, and remember to introduce your guests who don’t know anyone there to at least one of your other guests who you trust to talk to them. If you don’t have one of those, have that person give you a hand with something – the drinks, food, coats – just something to make them feel comfortable until they get to know the rest of your guests!

Ready to host your own Pool Party – but obviously a better one than this? Our summer and outdoor murder mystery party game packages are the perfect way to make sure your guests aren’t hiding in the bathroom, planning their own escape route out of your party!

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