Dinner Parties Bring Out the Worst in Us All

When I was too, let’s say, seasick to remember one Saturday night, my roommates made plans to have people over at our house for a dinner party. I spent the following Sunday watching documentaries in bed, because that’s what I do when I’m, er, seasick. I came out of my room, and one of my roommates told me the potluck had been cancelled because everyone bailed. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was glad that no one was coming over because I was still in yesterday’s clothes.

One week passed, and the dinner party plans solidified with commitments. That’s something I’m still not used to: my friends will send calendar invitations in Outlook and request a reply. I didn’t think I had to reply, because the event was going to be in my own house. The worst that would happen is I would “crash” the dinner party by walking into the dining room. I still had no say in whether this party would happen, only that I would be there or not.

I’m glad I decided to make a salad. I took a spinach and arugula mix, and curled my fingers into it while dumping in walnuts and dried cranberries. I topped it off with goat cheese crumbles. Meanwhile, I tinged a stirring forked against the ceramic mixing bowl so’s to make oil and vinegar agree with each other. (They don’t. They separate as quickly as boys and girls in a middle school dance.) I kept mixing the dressing even while guests showed up. Fortunately, they were distracted by my roommates’ puppy so that I didn’t need to talk to them. Our guests brought cheese sticks rolled by Pilsbury Crescents, spaghetti noodles and sauce, banana bread, and Swedish meatballs; and our hosts made mac & cheese. I offered the only green thing on the table.

The two hungriest males (besides myself) sat at the dinner looking at food like it would walk onto their plates for them, and called out to others to join them so they could eat. Shortly after we were all seated and chatting, one of our friends and his girlfriend started slipping in political comments to the discussion. “Like how Obama got reelected,” while on the topic of things that shouldn’t have happened. Half the people laughed. The other half looked around. “But really, either black people voted for him because he’s black, or white people voted for him because they were afraid people would call them racist.” There were so many things I wanted to say to rebuke these comments, but I think that would have led to the dinner table eventually flipping. I instead said, “Let’s not talk politics. What are you guys doing for the winter holiday?” “I thought you liked politics,” our friend said, confused. “I do,” I replied, “but not at the dinner table.” I’m all for free speech, but really, it was clear half the people were uncomfortable and three people out of nine were going to consume the conversation for the rest of the night if I didn’t say something.

I ate more than my share of food. I ate all of the (thankfully prepared as a backup) vegetarian Swedish meatballs, many of the Crescents, three bowls of salad, three scoops of mac & cheese, one heap of spaghetti, a few slices of bread, and a quarter of a carrot cake. I was very happy when people left so I could lie down and fall asleep to ignore the pain in my inflated belly. It felt like a balloon filled with chili, lobbed around as a volleyball.

There’s still two thirds of the carrot cake left. I have no idea how I’m going to eat it.