“We came here to eat dinner and to party. This is a dinner party, right?” -Dwight Schrute
It’s a Friday and having not yet secured a job, I’m quickly approaching housewife status, holed up in my excessively-tidy one bedroom. All I need is a couple of valium, some kids, and a minivan to drive them to soccer practice. With so much time on my hands, I decide to throw a dinner party. And I’ll invite The Writer–you know the saying, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. (It’s a good thing I know how to cook one solid meal.) That’s right, I tell myself, I’ll steal his heart with food and good company. And maybe a few drinks. That same afternoon I go to an interview, am offered the job on the spot, and agree to begin working Monday. Still set on the dinner party, I send out invites Sunday night before I can succumb to the anxiety or exhaustion of my new job. Clark and my new friends, the gay couple, respond to tell me they’ll be there. “I’m in,” The Writer tells me a little later. My plan is simple: the night I went over to The Writer’s house to watch a movie, we talked about some of the classes I’d taken in college, and I offered to copy some of my notes for him. When my guests were ready to leave, I’d say goodbye then “suddenly remember” I had those notes for The Writer, keeping him back to spend the night. Then reality kicks in and I realize there’s a lot to be done. My apartment is not conducive to seating, so I rearrange my furniture and for the first time in the few weeks I’ve lived here notice how barren the space is. So after my grueling first day of work, nerves shot, I drive to Ikea and buy a chair and coffee table, neither of which am I actually strong enough to carry, but like a Momma Grizzly, I summon the strength. Staying up until nearly two, I finish assembling the furniture and prepare tomorrow’s dinner with blistered hands.
Getting 4 1/2 hours of sleep the night before the dinner party was not part of my plan. I somehow make it through the workday, extra chipper, but sitting in traffic on the way home, my remaining enthusiasm evaporates into the L.A. smog. I burst through my front door and without any hesitance, put vacuum to carpet, cut the brownies, pre-heat the oven, and marinate the chicken. I then turn off the oven because I only need it for biscuits. Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid. While washing a dish, I realize my hands are a little shaky, so I pour myself a Jameson on the rocks and wait. It’s ten minutes after everyone is supposed to arrive but no one’s here, so my anxiety runs wild, and I pour a second Jameson. My hands aren’t shaking anymore, but thanks to my sleep deprivation, I’m feeling rather incoherent–a great quality in any host. Finally, they arrive, almost all at once apologizing and citing traffic for their tardiness, and I notice The Writer is uncharacteristically enthusiastic to see me. After a witticism-heavy guided tour of my pad, I serve drinks. The Writer asks for water, which is also not part of the plan, but we continue into conversation. Which I’m bumped from almost immediately because my guests know hundreds of the same people, having all been friends for years where as I just met them weeks ago (except Clark, obviously). Plus, I had to stay in the kitchenette to start cooking the chicken. What I hadn’t accounted for was the time it would take to cook enough chicken for five grown men (three or four pans worth) when each pan full of chicken takes 30+ minutes. I can barely do the math on that in my current state, but I know I don’t have two hours to cook dinner…these people will hate me! So I turn up the heat and shorten the cook time by a few minutes. As I serve the salad, The Writer comes over to thank me for dinner. “I’m pretty impressed,” he tells me. “I don’t even know how to cook, much less have groceries in my house.” I’m legitimately unsure what to think of this. A little over an hour later, dinner is served! The broccoli is appropriately steamed, and the Italian chicken looks superb. Until The Writer cuts into it. “I can’t eat this,” he announces. “What’s the problem?” I ask. It’s pink. How could it be pink? I cut into several pieces to make sure they weren’t pink! Alas, the lighting above the stove is less than stellar, and in case you’ve forgotten, I’m still a bit incoherent. That’s right, I’ve nearly food poisoned my guests, who revolt, so I throw all of the chicken back on the pan for about 15 minutes. Embarrassed, I let the conversation wash on mostly without me, but I’m pretty sure I manage to slur a word or two. Great, now I’ve really reached housewife status!
I serve the chicken again, and my guests once more protest because somehow this fucking chicken is STILL undercooked. Housewife status revoked. Next, The Writer, the self-proclaimed least domestic of the party guests, takes charge and shows me how to cook. And that, kids, is what we call being shamed, especially because I’ve made this exact dinner flawlessly several times. Finally, dinner is really ready, and Clark asks for a biscuit. Panic shoots through me as I realize the biscuits have been done, sitting in the oven since I announced dinner was ready the first time. And now they’re toast–deeply blackened toast. But my guests, now unequivocally embarrassed for me, insist they still want to eat them. They devour all of the food (it’s past 10 at this point, so they’re definitely starving), and I serve dessert, which I assure them can’t be bad because I had already made and tested out the brownies. I win my guests back over, and we talk for two more hours having all types of heated to lighthearted discussions and debates. A little after midnight, Clark announces he has to go, and the others follow suit. The Writer is the last to give his goodbye, but his is a warm one. “Oh, just a sec!” I exclaim as he’s almost out the door–my plan now falling into place, better late than never I guess. “I have those notes for you.” The other guests leave us, and I pull out the copies. “Thanks so much, I really appreciate this,” The Writer says with a smile. I explain the papers’ order and a couple of other details, then he’s ready to leave. “Why don’t you stay for another drink?” I almost ask. But I certainly don’t need another drink, and I’m tired. I’m tired from work. Tired from drinking. I’m tired of trying to fit into this gay little world, and I’m tired of trying to read The Writer. So instead, I tell him to drive safe, but what I really mean is “goodbye.” I lock the door behind him, decidedly ignore the mess, then collapse into bed and pass out. I wake up alone the next morning but feel completely satisfied.