A Look At Life: Dinner Party Animal

21st September 2012

From party animal to dinner party animal

Jo Plumridge

Way back, in the dim and distant annals of time, I turned to a friend and shrieked (for we were in a very noisy bar), “thank God we’ll never be one of those groups of friends that has dinner parties, and dull things like that”. Much mirth and giggling ensued, although that was probably down to the additional social lubricant of cheap alcohol…

Skip forward just a few years, and most of my phone calls seem to consist of either saying or hearing the phrase, “why don’t you come round for dinner?” What happened? How did I suddenly go from being a party animal to a dinner party animal? And why, oh why, doesn’t it bother me more?!

The truth is that the transition from parties to dinner parties is inevitable for most of us. I blame aging. Ageing is an insidious beast that creeps up on you while you’re least expecting it and starts to lead to you falling asleep in nightclubs. (Yes. This happened to me. In a very famous nightclub in Ibiza. That was the same year that I hung up my dancing shoes). The day you look around, and realise that all your friends no longer look like groovy hipsters, but instead are dancing like their dads is a sobering one. And the other problem is that loud bars and clubs start to lose their appeal. At some point, you realise that trying to communicate by semaphore isn’t all that much fun, and that it would just be nice to go somewhere where you can hear yourself think, let alone speak. That, my friends, is what ageing does to us all. I’m not saying that I don’t still enjoy going to bars and pubs – I just prefer to choose ones with a modicum of peace and quiet about them, that don’t object when I want to go home at 10pm, and will let my other half in even when he’s wearing trainers.

The other problem – sorry, I mean delight, of course – is the addition of the patter of tiny feet into many of our lives. I have a step-daughter who lives with us part-time, and many of my friends have offspring of varying ages. Children, let’s be honest, don’t do much for our night-life (unless you count getting up in the night to feed / comfort / look perplexed at them as nightlife). When they’re young, they need to be in bed at a sensible time (and after a day looking after them, so do you), and when they get older, we’re generally watching the clock to make sure we get home in time to be able to afford to pay the babysitter’s wages. The advent of children encourages the advent of the dinner party. It’s far easier to take kids round to a friend’s house, and have dinner at a reasonable time, or pop them down on a spare bed to have a nap.

The fortuitous thing about modern dinner parties is that they’ve thankfully lost the formality of those of our parents’ generation. Long gone, I would hope, are the days of entertaining the boss and his wife in order for hubby to achieve his promotion. Mostly, dinner parties in modern times are just an excuse to get good friends together, and have some decent grub. Not, sadly, that this seems to stop me from having visions of sophisticated soirées. In my head, my dinner parties are filled with elegance – complete with me wafting about in some diaphanous chiffon ensemble. In reality, I tend to flap around like the proverbial headless chicken, whilst my immensely calm partner gets on with the actual cooking. I may speak like Margo from The Good Life, but I’ve yet to master her sangfroid. I’m not alone, though – my friends are equally as dishevelled. An early dinner party attempt at a friend’s house ended with us setting fire to his tablecloth, and very nearly the dining table itself. Some of those present might say that this was entirely in keeping with the general group dynamic, but it seems to have set the tone for future events. Perhaps, like so much in life, the key with party and dinner party alike is just to go with the flow, or alternatively to make sure that you keep a stiff drink on hand for when times get too challenging…

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