Social Graces

Who ever invented the practice of eating at a party while you’re standing up? I enjoy social gatherings with friends and family for special occasions, but I am a klutz when it comes to balancing hors d’oeuvres plate, napkin, utensils, plus a drink, all while milling about in a crowd and chatting.

It’s gotten to the point that I often stick to just a glass of wine or seltzer, and pass on the finger food. I can’t eat without drinking, or I risk problems swallowing. And I can’t manage the plate and the drink with my hands, and still eat, without risk of dropping everything. As for the finger food, with so many bandages, I don’t like eating with my hands, anyway, especially if the food is drippy or the least bit oily.

This is not the most serious problem in the world, certainly. But it is a challenge, and I do feel awkward unless I can find a place to sit and enjoy the nosh, or at least one of those high tables that are designed for standing and eating at a party.

Portable food courses are, I suppose, just another way our casual lifestyle finds expression. Why be constrained by formal seating arrangements when it’s fun to mingle and eat at the same time? When I was younger and my hands worked, this was fine.

But the older I get, and the less nimble my hands become, I really do prefer a sit-down meal. Even party buffets, when you take a plateful of food and find yourself a seat on the couch or a chair, create coordination challenges. Balancing a plate on my lap while trying to manipulate knife and fork, especially if they are made of plastic, is a recipe for a spill. It’s hard enough to grasp the thin plastic utensils, let alone apply enough pressure to cut food with the so-called knife, without sending the food skidding onto my good clothes or the floor.

That said, my solutions for party-eating logistics are as follows:

  • Don’t load up your plate. Less to cut, less to spill and, of course, less risk of overeating.
  • Find a quiet corner where you won’t get jostled while you eat. This also addresses a second issue having nothing to do with scleroderma and everything to do with aging—I have increasing difficulty hearing what someone is saying when there is a lot of background noise.
  • Even better, find a seat in a quiet corner with a table where you can rest your drink while you eat.
  • Best of all, invite your closest friends at the party to join you in your above-mentioned quiet little corner. That way you can enjoy your food, your drink and a good conversation. If you spill something, your friends won’t care. And they’ll help you clean it up.

Image Credit: Le Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000, Albert Robida, c. 1882, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, courtesy

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    Couldn’t agree more with EVERY comment here, even though I don’t have to worry about getting finger bandages dirty. In fact, I have never liked loud, crowded parties where you have to stand up the whole time, whether with a drink only or with drink and food. Maybe if I were taller . . . . 😉

  2. This is exactly how Christmas Eve is every year at my aunt’s. With the added collections of priceless everything all around you. My main trouble used to be preventing my autistic son from going on a rampage and destroying something and the baby trying to eat things she shouldn’t. This year will have the added fun of poor use of my hands. We might camp out on the hardwood stairs this year! No one speaks to us much at these events anyway but a no show would be the talk of the town. Horray holiday season!

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