Originally posted January 28, 2010...
When I was a very young lad, I loved cigarettes and Paul Simon. This is not to say that I was a smoking, folk-rock loving child, but rather smelling cigarette smoke wafting up to the bedroom I shared with my brother, and hearing the strains of Graceland or Still Crazy After All These Years while trying to pick out and make sense of grown-up conversations meant that my parents had people over. My parents never smoked, incidentally, but were hip 80′s parents who’d sooner burn their shoulder-pads before asking a smoking party guest to go outside—it just wasn’t done. Anyway, as a child, I distinctly remember that I loved falling asleep to the sounds of grown-ups talking. It made me feel safe and secure, much more so than trying to fall asleep to a silent house. That’s something I grew out of, though. Now, if I’m lying in bed and somebody so much as coughs two blocks away, I’m out of bed like a shot, my nearest weapon at the ready (usually it’s a rolled up Vanity Fair, which criminals fear and hate). But I digress.
Eventually, I came to learn that these smoky, rocking, late into the night conversation-makers were called dinner parties. As I grew older and gayer, I fantasized about dinner parties a lot (that’s what most gay kids fantasize about, by the way. And it should be noted that a kid “gays” at about the same rate his voice deepens; at first it’s just little cracks of homo and then it’s Helloooooo Dolly!). When I pictured my Big City life, it was filled with dinner parties. Ones with pasta, and crusty bread, and red wine, and peppered with great conversation like, “I don’t want to come across pedantic, but…” and “You’re living in a fool’s paradise!” Now that I’m here in the Big City, I find my dinners are mostly just me hunched over a tuna sandwich thinking, “Is this too mayonnaise-y? Or not mayonnaise-y enough?” Something’s gotta change.
Dream: To host a dinner party.
Goal: Achievable. Friends my age have hosted fabulous dinner parties that I’ve been a guest at, there’s no reason I shouldn’t host one myself. Actually, there’s a myriad of reasons.
Plan(s): Several. Like:
Cook better. I’m not what you call a foodie. I am, however, an eatie. I lack the ambition, skill, even the resources to be a good cook, but I have all the prerequisites to become a legendary fat ass. I just love getting together with friends and eating, but that doesn’t make me a guy who cooks for his friends. Jon and I are good at bringing cake, because you just buy a cake and everybody knows you didn’t make it yourself, but I think everybody’s kinda glad of that too. Think about it, would you rather see someone coming up your walk with a cake in their arms in a big box with fancy icing and those sugared roses on it? Or a messy, homemade bullshit carrot cake with raisins? And don’t lie and say you’d prefer the homemade cake because you wouldn’t. The trouble comes when your dinner party potluck host and hostess take dessert off the table. Not only that, but when you don’t even have booze as leverage, you’re in trouble.
The Olson/Young Christmas Potluck is legendary good time. Everybody and their sister comes, and brings their cute babies, and a gift for exchange, and food, and our time there was awesome, and sorely missed. But for some reason I don’t recall, we couldn’t bring a dessert, we had to bring a salad, and the party was dry (no alcohol). So we couldn’t hide the shame of our store bought macaroni salad with a bottle of vodka, in the hopes of drunkening our hosts into being impressed, we just handed off our sad little container of cold macaroni where it was put in the fridge where it stayed for the remainder of the party. That’s right, those of you following along at home, our “salad” was not put out with the rest of the potluck, nor was it ever seen again. But we deserved the slight, intentional or not. Who brings macaroni salad to classy dinner party? Us, apparently.
Be better game-players. What’s a dinner party without a dinner party game or two? Friends of ours (an actress and an engineer) hosted another couple (a lawyer and a teacher) and us (a professor and a Snuggie-owner) to a great dinner party. There was a cheese-ball and cocktails and stimulating conversation and Pictionary. This is where I learned my beloved does not make the best partner in games of this sort. Games where the basic premise involves getting your partner to guess something by giving related clues (like Password, Pyramid and Pictionary) are impossible for Jon. Perhaps I flatter him unduly, but I think it’s because he’s so smart. His mind will leap to the most intelligent answer, but not the most logical one. For instance, if the password is “Cold”, I might say “Chilly!” and he’ll think for awhile before going, “Santiago?” and defending his choice because it’s “obviously the largest city in Chile.” We played Pictionary and he’s at the drawing board drawing stick people of different colours walking into a building. And we’re going, “People? Uh…building? Black and white?” And he’s tapping the board impatiently and drawing arrows pointing towards his picture (which has never helped anyone playing Pictionary ever in the history of time) and the clock runs out and he goes, “It’s Mix! Come on! Mix! It’s a segregated school, but now all the kids can go together. It’s Mixed!” Like it was so obvious. Wouldn’t anybody else have drawn cake mix or something? Oh man, it always comes back to cake.
Be classy. I think, really, the secret to hosting a dinner party can’t be found by following a recipe or playing a game: you must have class. You must mingle and introduce, feed and water, engage and impress, your guests. David’s Christmas/Hannukah/Winter Solstice party is super classy. Everyone is dressed to the nines, mingling in those perfect party pockets of five to seven people, balancing hors d’ouvres and wine and talkin’ all fancy. This past year I sweat through my suit and Jon got so drunk it took him twenty minutes to put his shoes on (not find them in the pile of shoes, literally put them on his feet). So maybe we’re not yet classy enough to be dinner party hosts, but we’re the most eager guests you’ll ever meet, so be sure to invite us round. I’ll play your games while Jon smokes outside and our deep conversations will put your children to sleep. Fools or not, it’ll be paradise.