Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Surprisingly Fun Dinner Party

Last week I wrote about getting invited to a gathering hosted by a couple I'd met in a sushi bar last summer. I may have misjudged Jason and Calista, in my assertion that they were people I wouldn't ordinarily be hanging with. Their pretty exteriors blinded me a little to what turned out to be interesting, even slightly skewed characters. Calista, who is extremely slim and blonde and carefully and stylishly dressed, admitted to me (when I pointed out the disparate nature of her appearance and her persona) that she considers her blonde hair to be a disguise. She turns out to be a former actress, dancer, and rock singer, and she has lived overseas and she write screenplays. Jason is some sort of business consultant, but he and his college roommate and his brother (who lives in his house) have some sort of rock band; the basement of his beautiful South Minneapolis bungalow is a studio, with various electronic instruments. Also: They are closer to forty than to thirty, so I was well off in that guess.

What the evening turned out to be was a classic old-fashioned dinner party, where a host invites people who don't know each other but who might make for a stimulating mix. There were nine of us all told, and I realized as people arrived (I was first) that every one of us came with at least a little bit of apprehension (one with visible nervousness), since we didn't know any of the other people. Realizing that everybody in the room feels a little bit of a stranger gives me absolute permission to open up and talk to people with no fear. Jason had made some wonderful soups and Calista had selected some wonderful wines and the feel of the evening was open and friendly. All the women there touched me on the upper arm an awful lot when talking with me, at least by the end of the evening (heck, even Jason gave me a big hug goodnight). One of the guests was my regular cheesemonger at Lund's, and his fiance happens to know a good friend of mine from Oklahoma City -- the husband of my many-years-ago roommate Michele. (The other guests were astonished that I was naming people in Oklahoma this women knew, but her fiance, himself not Jewish, explained that this is a Jewish thing. I then taught him that the name of this game is "Jewish Geography", a phrase he hadn't previously heard.)

Part of the fun edginess of the evening was that Calista turns out to be what I call a "shit-stirrer" -- somebody who will set people up in slightly awkward situations to see what might happen. For example, she had told me that this was a party for "all her favorite people in Minnesota". Since I had met the woman only once at a restaurant, this was, of course, a rather excessive description. But Calista is very lively and pretty and flattering, and she knows that most people are willing to accept such a judgment (I myself, last week, referred to getting the call as an ago stroke, so even my wariness was compromised.) The cheesemonger told me a similar story the the next day, when I saw him at his store, of Jason calling him and repeating Calista's description of the party being for her favorite people in Minnesota and him not being quite sure what the story was. He mentioned that his fiance had been extremely reluctant to join him -- but she, like me, had a fabulous time and ended the evening agreeing with me that we all ought to have more dinner parties of this sort, to introduce people to each other.

At the end of the evening I told Jason and Calista how wonderful their party had been, and that I didn't even have to be entertaining. What do you mean, asked Jason. One, I said, I was not the only jester in the room. And two, these were not people for whom my being entertaining was a necessary thing for them to enjoy me being there. I then noted that it really was a risk for them to invite me like that, but they shook their heads and Jason said no, it wasn't a risk at all.

I say it again: I've got to have more dinner parties, and more dinner parties at which the guests don't already all know each other. It's a social institution that has fallen by the wayside in recent decades that I should revive. In this case the menu was very simple. The homemade soups were delicious, and the bread and wine and dessert were quite tasty, but that was it: Soup and wine and dessert, and that was absolutely enough.
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