THERE ARE CERTAIN laws of the universe that intelligent women know not to violate: don't count your chickens before they're hatched, don't wear pleats and don't ever try to fix up two people.
But why not Jenny and John, I thought? Two smart, fun people, both single. . .The thought set my little heart a-fluttering and before you knew it the dinner party invitations were in the mail.
I decided to go with a menu that I'd fixed many, many times before with great success: a very fattening fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp and scallops, homemade rolls and a nice, fresh salad.
A couple of bottles of wine and some of my delicious homemade truffles, and I felt confident of yet another success.
I'm not sure when I realized that disaster was upon me. Upon reflection, it may have been in the early morning when I nearly sliced off the end of my index finger with a cleaver.
Or maybe it was when I couldn't find my mother's tried and true roll recipe and had to use one out of a book. One I'd never made before.
Nothing went right.
In modern cookbooks the hostess, it seems, can always count on her guests. Just act like nothing is wrong, the guests will take their cue and all will go well.
Jenny started whining the moment she came in. "All you have is wine and soda? Don't you have any iced tea? Well can I have a glass of water while you make it?"
Five minutes later: "Is it decaffeinated? Oh I'll just stick with water, thanks."
I put the pitcher back on the counter, took a deep, cleansing breath, and began reciting the hostesses credo: "You-cannot-kill-your-guests. You-cannot-kill-your-guests . . ."
"What's this lumpy stuff?" asked John, poking his sauce.
"And how come all the rolls are a different shape?" he asked, holding up one to the light for closer inspection. "Are they suppose to look like this?"
Jenny, on the other hand, thought the rolls were so interesting. After all, she so seldom had the opportunity to eat white flour.
These are two people who deserve each other.
I clenched my teeth and smiled. Some might think I was being a gracious hostess. Those who know me would realize that I was thinking of creative ways to kill them. I began wondering what John would look like with a basket of rolls wedged -- sideways -- between his teeth. I briefly considered running Jenny through with the silverware -- which I had spent the better part of the morning polishing. No, I thought, too easy. I'll make her eat that five pound bag of flour I've got in the kitchen, the one that I've been using as a door stop for the last ten years.
My eyes must have glazed over for a minute because when I came to I found that Jenny was not eating her dinner. The dinner, I might add that I had spent hours on. The dinner that I had spent more than $50 on. The dinner that I was holding for her benefit so she wouldn't be a spinster for the rest of her wretched life.
Jenny, it turned out, was a vegetarian. Not only did she not eat meat, she didn't eat seafood. And that included not eating the sauce or noodles which the seafood had touched. But hey, that's OK, she didn't want to make a fuss. Why she'd love nothing more than to eat the leftover noodles -- which by now had congealed into a cold, hard mass -- with perhaps a little bit of leftover, dried-up cheese sprinkled on top.
I took off a day from work to clean my house for this? I sucked up dust bunnies, some of whom I knew by name, for this?
Only my neighbor Art, who will cheerfully eat anything and thank you for the opportunity, was happy. He cleaned his plate, asked for seconds, and then, in what was surely one of the most touching moments in my life, asked if he could take the leftovers home.
He did not, however, offer to help me hide the bodies.