Every time I play hostess I am certain it will be the worst evening anyone has experienced in the history of socializing.

Two years have passed since I cleaned the inside of my refrigerator. I am not lazy. I just think perhaps I've earned the maternal right to a certain measure of filth.

Like the basement.

A man-cave where milkshakes and mud have co-mingled for years without de-fungal interference from anyone. The basement has hosted tie-dye parties, bloody ultimate forts (don't ask), and scream-o band rehearsals with un-showered groupies for so long, it emits a permanent aroma all its own. When my immune system is stronger, I intend to venture down there with some Lysol and a gas mask I picked up for a song on eBay.

Then there's the kitchen.

The cabinets and closets are so crammed with stuff, we have simply ceased using them. If you need a dish, wear the helmet located next to the liability waiver there on the countertop.

I confess I could exist in this homemaker hell for weeks were it not for the occasional itch to entertain friends. Like during the holidays. It always seems like a good idea to invite people over this time of year. Daydreams of a cozy dinner and crackling fire are particularly mood-lifting right about now.

Then the invitations go out and one realizes one's filth will soon be on display for other less emotionally troubled souls.

About 48 hours from welcoming guests to a Thanksgiving feast, for which I have neither cleaned nor planned a menu, I consider faking a brain aneurism to avoid addressing the urine-splashed magnet for scum known as the powder room. Or I could accidentally drop a tube of breadstick dough on my pinky, since a splint would preclude my ability to mop the kitchen floor or be entertaining to anyone.

Despite experiencing only two real dinner disasters in my life, every time I play hostess I am certain it will be the worst evening anyone has experienced in the history of socializing. I just know the house will smell like dirty socks, pee and garlic. I lose sleep imagining casualties from my under-cooked lemon turkey or the unfortunate guest who stumbles into the basement, never to be heard from again.

Of course, that won't really happen. Because out of the blue, just in the nick of time, my alter-ego Mrs. Clean will appear, sparing my guests a glimpse into the procrastinating, poorly groomed person I really am; the gal who lives with three men in filth day to day. Drawing from untold reserves-otherwise known as fear of humiliation-I pen a list of chores, assigning a few to my husband and sons playing Rock Band in the man-cave. I then execute them-the chores, not the men-as if my life depends on it. I rise up and toil and sweat and shop and bake until I am certain all my tracks have been covered and my filthy secret heavily shielded.

That is, until someone opens my refrigerator door.

Michele Ranard secretly smiles when her guests call her Mrs. Clean. She does love a tidy nest, even if it doesn't happen every day. She is the mother of teenagers, a professional counselor, and a freelance writer.