God Save the Dinner Party
Quick, put on some pearls so that you can have something to clutch: the New York Times, America’s paper of record, is reporting the tragic death of the New York society dinner party.
Indeed, the article written by Guy Trebay (that…that can’t be a real person’s name, right?) rightly points out that dinner parties are the one thing standing between our society and TOTAL CHAOS. Speaking with noted dinner partyologist Alex Hitz, Thebay reminds us of the great New York socialite hosts, from Nan Kempner to Brooke Astor, who are now gone (and just because they were both 150 years old. Sad.) “‘Every single one was different,’ Mr. Hitz said. “What they had in common was a sense of fun and community and gathering people together for good simple food.” Ahh yes, the simple joys of the megarich serving hearty, peasant foods like truffles and caviar to other salt of the earth millionaires. Why, back then anyone, and I mean anyone, with a dormitory at Princteon named after their grandpapa was welcome at the table.
But time and the demise of good breeding aren’t strong enough to bring down dinner parties on their own. No no: there are other factors. Tembay blames lawyers too, pointing out that guests find an “additional challenge to keeping things lively (today), given that in a litigious age, that durable staple of dinner parties, the innocent flirtation, has become a minefield of signals missed or, worse yet, taken up.” When will the Supreme Court honor Barbara Bush’s wishes and address dinner party conversation tort reform???
In the end though, modern barbarism has conquered even those who simply strive to host great dinner parties. David E. Monn, prominent party planner and (likely) owner of the world’s foremost decorative teaspoon collection tells the Times “People want to be civilized, so it all doesn’t turn into Caligula, and so they come to me saying: ‘I don’t know what to do if I’m having friends over for cocktails. What tray do you use? What do you put on the tray? Do you put out a piece of cheese?’” As you can see, without dinner party planners like Monn people will soon be reduced to bashing one another in the head with cheese trays and eating each others brains!
As we rapidly approach this apocalyptic world vision, the high society dinner party-deprived masses won’t even be prepared to barter for gasoline/shotgun shells because, as Trebay tells us “(few) people still see the point in accumulating china, silver and crystal at all.” Clearly, society is doomed (although the distaste in today’s boorish youth for candlesticks has certainly reduced New York’s billiard room muder mystery rate).
What a worthy and important article. I like it’s focus on the finer aspects of the now endangered dinner party and the article’s complete disregard for the fact that fancy dinner parties require hordes of underpaid, discriminated-against servants. And how they ignored the fact that these dinner parties were only as grand as they were because, marginalized by sexism and homophobia, the great now-gone hostesses and hosts could dedicate their every energy to these elaborate events. Also, I enjoyed the way Trebay forgot to mention (or was unaware of the fact) that the middle classes STILL HOST FUCKING DINNER PARTIES. Just because Nancy Reagan isn’t at your table doesn’t mean it’s not a dinner party. But like I said I’m glad that such vulgar truths weren’t covered by the article though.
Still this piece is a really spot on spoof of what Jack Donaghy might right for the New York Times if he were an old queen/a real person.