When I was a kid, I used to think that the height of adult life, the zenith of being an adult and enjoying sophisticated evenings, was the dinner party. Part of this existing as a concept in my head was thanks to a CD that I still own from 1995 called “Donna Reed’s Dinner Party” released on Nick at Nite records. I was a religious watcher of Nick at Nite as a kid, back when it was just a touch weird and kitschy at times. I seriously think their off-kilter way of presenting shows made long before I was born had quite the influence on my sense of humor.
Being such a devotee of all things Nick at Nite—and Nickelodeon as any good ‘90s kid would have been—when they announced they were laughing a record label with the aforementioned “Dinner Party” title and “Dick Van Dyke’s Dance Party” I had to have the CDs. I looked at the track listing on “Donna Reed’s Dinner Party,” read the recipes inside and thought “Ah, this is what adults do.” It didn’t matter that I had never seen my own parents throw anything resembling a dinner party—we had people over for dinner, but that wasn’t what I thought a dinner party was.
In my ten-year-old mind, I pictured up a kind of mid-century modern world that never really existed. I thought that people showed up at your home around seven in cocktail attire, while sophisticated jazz and lounge music played from a stereo that was off in the distance. Seven to eight would be the cocktail hour, with hors-d’oeuvres. I pictured trays full of gloppy things on fancy crackers sitting around on end tables.
Dinner would begin promptly at eight, it would be something elaborate like a crown rib roast. Wine would be served and we would feast while I regaled the table with stories of my recent excursion to Monte Carlo. “So there we were, on a whim I bet it all on Black and next thing I knew I was crowned king of the Zephyr fest!” These anecdotes would go over big with my guests. After a good hour and a half of chatter, laughs, and good food, coffee would be brewed and out would come dessert—Baked Alaska.
Following this elegant meal, we would sit around finishing up the last of the coffee, talking more until I would stand and declare “Let’s go into the parlor.” This is when the games would start, it would be something like Charades. After an hour or two of this, the night would start to taper off, and I’d be left with a kitchen to clean up in my shirtsleeves and apron, while an Andy Williams record played in the background.
Now that I am an adult, I’ve found that the dinner party that I always thought would happen, isn’t really what takes place. We have casual gatherings where we eat, make each other laugh, and play board games. The cocktail attire is not there, nor is the fancy, elaborate meal that requires an hour plus to clean up the kitchen.
I suppose in a way that my childhood thought that adults threw dinner parties was in a way true. I enjoy the evenings spent with dear friends, eating, laughing, and making memories, and playing countless rounds of “One Night Ultimate Werewolf.” Maybe one of these nights I’ll throw that fancy cocktail dress dinner I’ve always dreamed of—I know I have one CD for sure I’ll fire up and play in the background that night. See you next week.