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Women who find themselves suddenly single again—whether widowed or divorced–after years as half a couple are often at a loss on how to entertain. I threw my first big party—a properly decorous event—seven months after Lev died, and I have grown increasingly comfortable entertaining at home alone in the years since then. Here are six reasons to entertain:

1. Reciprocate

People are incredibly kind to new widows; but invitations to dinner, especially from married couples, taper off fairly quickly. If we don’t take initiative, if we aren’t proactive, we will find ourselves sitting home alone in the evening and on weekends. We cannot expect to stay on the receiving end. But how to reciprocate? Unless I belong to a private club or buy a table for a charitable benefit, it’s awkward. Men, especially of my generation (and younger men with older women), are uncomfortable letting a woman pick up the tab. Fights in restaurants over the bill are embarrassing to everyone. Inviting people to your home is an easy, gracious solution.

2. Fill your home

I loved my home, but I hated the emptiness after Lev died. I could have moved to new space or I could have stayed away as much as possible (and I have done that to a degree)…or I could fill my house with friends regularly. That has proven to be the most satisfying option.

Living room

3. Broaden your circle of friends

Just as some old friends fade away after death or divorce, there is a world of potential new friends out there waiting for us—single women whom we perhaps were acquainted with but didn’t see socially when we were married. Especially as Christmas and Valentine approached, I liked surrounding myself with other women in the same boat. I literally sat down after Lev died and made a list of every single woman I knew well enough to invite to my home—a grand total of seven. (The list is much longer now, due both to new friendships and to new widows.)

While women are infinitely easier to entertain than couples, I have slowly grown more at ease inviting couples, and this is a place where I concentrate more now on broadening my circle of friends. So many of my oldest friends have joined me in the widows club, and the diminishing number of men at our gatherings is painfully noticeable. I can invite young couples to a larger party whom I would not invite to dinner.


4. Clean your house

Mama always signed up to host her Sunday School class and her mission circle to coincide with fall and spring housecleaning—a semi-annual ritual of her generation of housewives that included cleaning all the closets. I don’t see any need to clean my closets when company is coming; but an upcoming party does force me to replace the burned-out light bulbs, polish the silver and spruce up the flower beds. In the process, I usually find repair and maintenance issues that need to be addressed.


5. Use your stuff

In preparation for my most recent party, I pulled glasses off the shelf that had not been used since Lev died. Not only were they covered with a film, but the shelf was covered with dust. I have pretty things—not only my own wedding china and silver but my mother-in-law’s beautiful things as well. There is no point in its taking up space on my shelves—more for the children to have to deal with when I die—if I don’t use it.


6. Anticipate

I’ve saved the most important reason until last. C.S. Lewis wrote that joy has two components—memory and anticipation. More recent studies suggest that anticipation is a stronger and more positive force than memory. As widows, we can live on our memories of the past or we can create opportunities to live with anticipation—always one more thing on the calendar to look forward to. And when we give a party, we share that gift of anticipation with our friends.

We can take those very events that are our sinkholes—holidays, anniversaries, even long weekends—and turn them into keenly anticipated, enjoyed moments. And we create new happy memories. For example, most of us find that our social life slows down on weekends when our married friends are spending time with their spouses. A Sunday night supper fills that hole: Friday grocery shopping, Saturday getting the house in order, Sunday cooking. A widow in Amarillo addressed her dread of coming home from the family gathering on Christmas day to her empty house by having an annual multigenerational open house on Christmas night. She stayed busy getting ready for her party—no time to brood or wallow in self-pity—and her party became the hottest ticket in town. Everyone wants to go to big Christmas parties, but few want to host them.

No one needs to feel like her home is too small or her budget too modest to entertain. You can invite a handful of people to come for wine and cheese before—or coffee and dessert after—a concert or other big event. Cook a big pot of soup for a Sunday night supper. Invite friends to share potluck. For your single friends at least, it is all about spending time with friends. Food is just the excuse to get together.

Photos: Nothing says “Party!” like pink flamingos at the front door. My home is ready for company.

If you are single, how do entertain?
Any good ideas, suggestions to share?