Gladding suggests frustrated hosts step back and gain some perspective. “There’s a wonderful old saying that the situation is hopeless but not serious,” he says. “If we have too much potato salad and not enough chocolate cake? Well, it’s hopeless. We’re not going to be able to do anything about it. But really, in the larger scheme of life, it’s not that serious.
“This is a human comedy rather than a human tragedy. If you see it as a tragedy, you may overblow proportionally how you feel about it. You can’t control all events, but you can control your thinking … and thinking leads to feeling and so you can say, ‘You know, I don’t know what they were thinking but I know what I’m thinking and well, it’s too bad but it’s not tragic.’ ”
Sometimes narcissism comes into play. The offended person might feel it should revolve around how he or she said it should happen, he says. “So in that person’s mind there’s some justifiable anger and frustration.”
Gladding suggests considering whether you need to invite the offenders next time. And if you do, be sure to ask them to bring dishes that aren’t key to the menu.
“ ‘Anticipation’ is not just a song by Carly Simon — it’s a way of living life and knowing what to expect,” he advises, “and always puts you much more in control and makes your life much easier.”
Who gets the leftovers at a potluck?
Judith “Miss Manners” Martin recently suggested in a column: Anything the hosts have transferred to their own serving dish stays with them. But if the contributor still has food in his/her transport dish, it goes home with them.
Lizzie Post’s advice? For hosts willing to share, she says, “Take charge early on. … At the end of the meal, say things like, ‘Does everyone want to take home what they brought or would you rather have everyone get a little bit of whatever is left?’
“Some people look at [their potluck contribution] as ‘I brought that food. It didn’t get used. I want to bring it home because I can use it for something else,’ ” Post says. However, she contends that the host has organized the party and technically has no obligation “to do anything but keep all the leftovers and return the dishes to people.”
For that reason, Post suggests that guests “have a good time and remember this is a communal event so go to it with that kind of spirit. Then you won’t be the person who says, ‘Give me back my 18 cupcakes.’ ”