The Real Reason I Don’t Want You to Help with the Dishes

published May 19, 2015
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You probably think I’m rude when I sneak away from the table, taking a few plates to the kitchen, trying and failing to go unnoticed. You probably think I won’t let you help because I’m too uptight about the way things are done. (You would have been right about that 10 years ago, but I’ve recovered, and will happily let other people clean these days.) Worst of all, it might seem like I want the party to end, and for you to go home.

But none of that would be true. I don’t want you to help with the dishes, but it has nothing to do with any of that.

The truth? I’m doing dishes alone because I want you to stay for a few more hours. I adore your company, and a night in with friends is my favorite social activity. But I’m an introvert and I just need a moment alone to breathe.

A few close friends know how I feel, and will do their best to steer people away from the kitchen. (I’ve tried to train my husband, but he’s the most extroverted person I’ve ever met and he just doesn’t get it. He even likes to talk to me in the bathroom. Honey? No, just … no.)

As much as I hate to interrupt a dinner party to clear dishes, we don’t live in a mansion, and I like to have epic parties that may include a second late-night meal. So I need to make some space in my kitchen. And as an introvert who loves a party, I like having the excuse to duck out for a minute. I need a little alone time to decompress, which is why I send you all into the pool room, or outside to shoot hoops, or to the porch for a cocktail while I do a few dishes, listen to a little Amy Winehouse, and get ready to rejoin the party.

What I really wish is that I could just excuse myself for a few minutes without comment. It seems like in some crowds, the norm these days at a casual party is to do the dishes as a group, but I don’t like to share. (Also, honestly, I invited you over for fun, not to do housework.) On the rare occasion that we have a hired waiter or bartender at a party, I still sneak into the kitchen to putter around for a few minutes. Just a little breather.

And if you do stay long enough for a second meal — which I hope you will — won’t it be nice to go into the now-clean kitchen and chat with me while I make a cheese board? And fill little bowls with chips and olives and nuts? Maybe even grab a bowl of fruit or something sweet? Just let me put together this cocktail tray real quick. Yes, thank you, I would love it if you helped me carry the late-night snack to the other room where everyone else is having a dance party. But the dishes are all mine.

When I steal away to do dishes, to clear a little space in the kitchen and my mind, I don’t want you to leave, and I don’t want help. I hope you stay until the wee hours, because that’s when the best conversations happen. I can take my shoes off and curl up on the sofa, settling in for a long chat. Or we can sit out on the porch, listen to the owls, and finish the rest of the good wine.

Just let me do the dishes first, okay?

Are you the same way? Discuss in the comments below.