Get your notepad and huddle in close. I want to tell you about the perfect dinner party. If you’re anything like me you’re ill-behaved, easily bothered, crass, silly, and judgmental about food, and dinner parties can offer a unique opportunity to alienate people. But no worries. I got you.
As Kant tells us, the purpose of a dinner party is to promote humanity. This means you have to be real. You have to be good. You have to nice. But most important, you gotta bring the truth and be real.
Have your first dinner party be with people you know. New to dinner parties? Chances are you’ll bring or encounter some kind of unpalatable sweet mush or a dry meat log, broken sauces, or unseasoned salad. Just remember that the food is only the vehicle to promote humanity. It could be cat food, really.
General Guidelines Regarding Conversation
Don’t go to a dinner party with someone you’ve dated one to five times. They don’t know you yet and likely you’re a much worse person than you’ve put on. If you agree to accompany your new guy or girl to a dinner party, either be quiet (but not too quiet to remain anonymous) or talk about dogs or the latest Showtime/HBO series. If someone says something you disagree with, try and create a long, impenetrable hush. The silence will act as a natural corrective. If you decide to address the other guest’s point and someone tries to change the subject, insist on the correction and deliver it with a sternness of expression; this will encourage everyone’s humanity. Play devil’s advocate. Everyone loves a devil’s advocate/libertarian point of view.
Here are some things to avoid saying around strangers:
“I don’t like dogs.”
“I haven’t seen/don’t watch [Ender’s Game, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, etc.]”
“I really like your neck.”
“Does it smell in here?”
“Your knees rub together when you walk.”
“Hey Todd, did you make this cake with bread flour? It’s so bad.”
“Marie, did you just let these potatoes boil for an hour before you mashed them? Oh they’re scalloped potatoes? They’re bad.”
“Bruce, this salad has no dressing, salt, and I think the tomatoes must have been in the refrigerator. Not good.”
“Oh you’re friends with Todd? His cake wasn’t good.”
Don’t start with games
Dinner parties are naturally competitive. Acceptable competition centers on food, the desirability of your partner, and sportz. Gin Rummy can wait ‘til after dinner. Don’t play Cards of Humanity. It’s either a crass, foul game that has no place at a civilized dinner party, or a crutch for people who don’t have the courage to be vulgar. Don’t play connect four. It’s exclusionary. People don’t often acknowledge the importance of volume during games.
Some General Guidelines on the Size of your Party
A dinner party of one is called solipsismus convictorii (discouraged)
A dinner party with only two people is just a dinner date.
A dinner party with over nine is a potluck.
A dinner party between twenty and fifty is a grand banquet (discouraged)
A dinner party with only dessert is a free bake sale (?!)
A dinner party at an inn is probably just breakfast at a B&B
If you like someone, steal their wallet. It’ll give you an excuse to call them later.
Always take off your shoes, even if the host insists that you don’t.
Bring your own salt shaker, but fill it with sand in case anyone brings the same dish as you.
Use the host’s pets as a napkin.
It’s rude not to eat foods you’re allergic to. Don’t be rude.
Bring your pet! People love dogs.
Marcos, Innkeeper at American Guest House, a Washington DC Bed and Breakfast