Sunday, May 1, 2022

Women and their need to have a party, as does Mrs Dalloway



Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway is known for her parties, known for being the consummate hostess. 

When her husband questions her about her newest party plan, she answers him:

Richard, it's all that I can do, give people one night in which everything seems enchanted, when all the women seem beautiful and all the men seem handsome and everyone is made to seem they're amusing.

 Putting all other themes of Mrs Dalloway aside, clearly Clarissa Dalloway is the quintessential hostess and I love that her wish is to make her guests shine, not herself.

In tidying all my bookshelves this winter I pulled out my old copy of my favorite Virginia Woolf novel expecting to love it the way I did when I was much younger. Within ten pages the stream of consciousness writing defeated me and I turned instead to finding Mrs Dalloway available to watch on Tubi where Vanessa Redgrave enchanted me as the older version of Clarissa Dalloway.



Ignoring the complex themes behind Clarissa needing to give a party, I fixated that cold winter night simply on the party itself with people arriving all dressed up and standing close to each other talking and eating special food and drinking festive drinks. You know, those things that pretty much disappeared during the two years of pandemic. 

And I began to miss it so very much!

Not that RH and I were ever accomplished hosts. We were always more of the "scruffy hospitality" philosophy made popular by an East Tennessee couple. 

But oh, the large cookouts we had at Valley View! Times when our big Adult Sunday School Class (and our daughter's Young Married Class) came in autumns and in springs to sit around the campfire and roast hotdogs over an open fire after exploring our 24 acres, with S'Mores for dessert and musical entertainment by guests in the Christian music industry.

We had birthday parties where teenagers hiked back to our waterfall and swung out over it on a rope. That experience halted for anyone except family after one teen girl fell and got the breath knocked out of her. 

Which makes me think of the G.I. Joe birthday party I had for Zack with a dozen little boys playing themed games. Was it my fault that one of them peeled his finger instead of the potato he was holding during the KP Duty game? His mother seemed to think so.

I even gave a fancy women's luncheon one time that took a month of preparation with three tables decorated with different Spode patterns from my collection. That party was anything but scruffy and I often pat myself on the back for having pulled it off, with help from my daughter and two daughters-in-law and the men in my family.

And over 26 years at Valley View there were large family parties galore. There still are large parties at Valley View but now they're hosted by our son and daughter-in-law, the new owners.

I'm truthfully past being able to pull off a large party now, even a scruffy one. But the desire to have them lives on and makes me wonder, is this an intrinsic need in most women?

I've noticed that even though I can no longer physically host big parties, I adore books and stories that include women (and men) preparing for special dinners--or brunches. I love it when bloggers write about their holiday parties or even birthday parties for a child.

And I keep on jotting down ideas for parties that will never happen. I can't help thinking that I must not be alone in this. Is it wired into our DNA to love having a party?

Or, as one of my favorite authors Phyllis McGinley wrote once, "I love to have given a party!" 

We did have a large family Christmas party last Christmas here at Home Hill. Anything but fancy. I served spaghetti, salad, and french bread. But oh, it was so much fun!


 And I miss it so! Even though any future ones might have to be catered.

Do you know what I mean?

Do you love having a party or having given a party?

Did you miss it during the shutdown? 

Is there just something in women where having a party is a necessity of life? 

Even when the world is not in a party mood?

Watch Mrs Dalloway if you get the chance. Or read the book, or both.

And give parties when you're young and able, for goodness' sake! Especially scruffy ones.




  1. I am a hostess and love to throw a party. I agree with Mrs. Dalloway it is a time for everyone to come together and just enjoy the moments. We can turn the world off for a short time and just enjoy each other, food, drink and laughter. I did miss having my annual girlfriend party during Covid but we finally were able to get it going again. I look forward to giving that party each year. I will have to take some time and watch Mrs. Dalloway. xoxo Kris

  2. Yes, yes, yes-s-s-s-s-s and YES! I miss giving them, going to them, planning for them...just even thinking about them. Your post brought up so many memories of parties in the past. My mom and grandmother were consumate/maniac hostesses so prevalent in the 1950-60's. Everything had to be perfect, polished, pristine and nummy. I worked for a caterer in my teen years and learned so many tricks of the trade, and every week we made an entire deli counter of salads for my family's store. I still have problems making 3# of potato salad instead of 50#. LOL...yes, I think I want to thrown a ladies' luncheon ---an unbirthday luncheon where we can all celebrate those UN-celebrated birthdays of 2020-21, and for the grands too! Hugs, for making me really think about this hard! Sandi

  3. I'm with the "love to have given" a party crowd. Love the planning, the ideas, the preparation, but about the time guests are due to arrive I think "why am I doing this?" Once the party is in full swing it's all fine again. We had a dinner party with friends a couple of weeks ago and my, that was a fun time after these past couple of years. It's such a pleasure to host and see people enjoying their time together.

  4. Forgot to say - love this post!

  5. I adore and appreciate a good party, and I also love to host, but I can totally relate to how physically draining it is. More and more so it seems! Not only do people not know how to entertain, even on a basic level, but they don't know HOW TO BE entertained! I had a fancy Christmas party and two very professional men wore their baseball caps inside my house all evening while everyone else was in sparkles and sport coats. I was about to come unglued. Your s'mores party and 24 acres actually sounds like a bunch of fun! I need to look into this book. - happy springtime.

  6. I am wondering if Mrs. Dalloway is on Tubi, as I get the Tubi channel. Sounds like a good one. I understand you longing for a big party or even to give one, Dewena. It seems when we get older, the hostess role takes over by our daughters. I had a real hard time with that at first, as I always did the celebrations at my house, but then I came to realize that we passed along many great ideas and traditions to them, and now it's their turn. Your campfires with hot dogs and S'mores sound wonderful. You had many memorable times spent with family at your home as well. And this is, indeed, a sweet photo of RH and the girls.

    Happy May Dewena!


  7. Hello, I love to host parties. I will be hosting a Mother's Day Party for my mom and our family on Sunday. It has become a tradition that we grill a turkey. One of my other parties I enjoy hosting is a Pumpkin Carving Party every October.
    I liked your GI Joe party, my boys would have loved attending. We did a Mini Golf Party for one of our boys birthday's. :-)
    This was a fun post!! :-) I love the last photo.

  8. I am very much an introvert, so I do not enjoy having parties! Not only that, but I'm a perfectionist and we have a small house, so overall, not a good combination for hostessing. Thus said, I have had parties in the past...kid's birthday parties, graduation parties, holiday parties, BBQs. I was worn out afterwards but I have to admit - I did have fun. Nowadays, I keep my entertaining to just close family members and/or a few friends.

  9. I've never read that book, but I do love a good party. We haven't entertained in a really long time. We used to throw parties around here for 30+ and more on each holiday. Now it's tiny get togethers...and I kind of miss a very full house!

  10. Deweena, I did not know you had enabled comments again! Brava!
    I am not in the "wanting to give a party" group, I'm afraid. I am glad I am no longer expected to throw a gathering for every holiday... and I am overjoyed about it. I do still do a bit of baking for friends, but no more of the regular holiday gatherings, my oldest son and family go to the in laws always.

  11. So enjoyed your post, Dewena. Love the quote from Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway: "...give people one night in which everything seems enchanted, when all the women seem beautiful and all the men seem handsome and everyone is made to seem they're amusing." I wouldn't be surprised if I don't have that line underlined in my own copy. I think it's a lovely purpose she had!

    I used to love to host parties, teas, and family events. I don't feel able to do that anymore, at least not in any large way. I'm quite happy to remember those times as memories only. I admit being one of those individuals who truly enjoyed the complete peace and quiet of Covid restrictions, where I wasn't expected to go anywhere or host anything. But, yes, it's been so nice to slowly reach out and meet up with people - we tend to do it at the coffee shop or a restaurant (where I'm not the one responsible for cooking, cleaning, and hosting). Hubby and I hosted a family gathering for my 65th in April, where we had the food catered, so I could totally enjoy being with my loved ones that day after being separated for two years.

    It was lovely to join in the conversation here.... wishing you a beautiful day. Brenda xo

  12. It's always nice to have get-togethers, be they friends or family, it's so lovely to catch up with people isn't it.

    All the best Jan

  13. The FUN in that photo of RH and the women in his clan, says it all: you and yours sure know how to throw a great party!!

    My goodness, Dewena, just reading about all the different parties you've thrown in the past and what they all involved: the planning, prep and presentation of food, theme, table settings, venue, etc., illustrates how much time and energy really does go into having a party, and whether it's for 3 or 33 guests, I think the work involved is the same; you still have to provide all the previous things I just mentioned!

    I enjoyed reading about all your parties of the past, as well as a party I personally had the pleasure of 'attending' in your most recent post, hosted by three darling gals, and photographed by a sweet son, letting you, an experienced party planner and giver, indulge in simply being a lucky and loving guest!

    Here's to more fun and happy gatherings of friends and family, whether you are hostess or guest, it is such a joy just being there!

    Happy Wednesday,
    Poppy xx

  14. I also can't seem to give up on collecting ideas for my next tea party, though it's been at least five years since I gave one. I have a lot of dishes that I only use for such events, and I keep thinking that I WILL do it again. I will... but shall I?

    From you description of Mrs Dalloway, her parties sounds like events at which I would like to be a fly on the wall, so I hope I might see the movie. Thank you!