I have a dream. Covid restrictions are over, and we’re allowed to see people again, and I can host a dinner party. That’s it; that’s my dream. As soon as the world goes back to normal, I don’t want to jump on a plane and travel somewhere far away: I just want to have people over, and take their coats, and sit next to them in my living room, drinking wine and waiting for the moment to announce that dinner’s ready.
Sometimes in movies or shows, people hate dinner parties. They dread them. They complain about being invited and then they complain about not being invited. They drag their feet to the door, and try to make excuses so they don’t have to show up in the first place, and on the car ride home, it’s all they can talk about.
There’s a dinner party scene in practically every TV show I’ve ever watched. Friends gathered around a table, arguing about something, or being dramatic, or being sentimental. There’s bonding over plates of pasta, and awkward pauses, and fighting over glasses of wine. Sometimes, someone even storms off to cry in the bathroom or gets so upset they leave early.
I want a dinner party. I want to serve appetizers. I want people to show up late and apologetic; I want to stress about what I’m going to cook and hope it tastes alright; I want to beg people to play a round of Wolf after dessert, even though no one ever wants to.
In TV shows, a dinner party might just be a plot device but in real life it’s something more. We declined invitations or cancelled last-minute in the pre-Covid days because we didn’t realize then the coveted place dinner parties occupied in our ordinary lives and the hole they would leave if they were suddenly snatched from us.
A dinner party is meaningful because it takes something as ordinary as dinner and makes it special. Most of us, hopefully all of us, eat dinner every day. We wolf down our food without thinking, or pick something up at the drive-through on the way home, or warm up our leftovers from the day before. A dinner party transforms this everyday activity into an event on the calendar, something worth talking about. It forces us to show up and to be present. It gives us permission to pause purely for the pleasure of eating, and having conversations, and spending time with people we care about.
I think the reason many people stay longer than they intended or linger at the door when saying goodbye is because leaving a dinner party means going back to reality. We know that as soon as the door is shut behind us, the magic is gone. It’s like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin. We’re back to eating ordinary food, at our ordinary kitchen table, with the same ordinary people we eat with every day. No more special cutlery reserved for special occasions, or fancy table decor, or feeling of celebration.
People always tell you to find the extraordinary in everyday life. For me, I think I found that in dinner parties.