Thursday 15 November 2018

Dinner parties, and other myths about middle-class life

Modern Life

Table talk: The dinner party from hell in Doctor Foster
Table talk: The dinner party from hell in Doctor Foster

Shane Watson

You may have been shocked to learn that the respectable middle classes are all taking cocaine at dinner parties. I know! Dinner parties? Are people really still having those? Once in a while someone will ring and ask if you want to come over for, 'you know, a drink and a bit of food' - but hardly ever.

You may have been shocked to learn that the respectable middle classes are all taking cocaine at dinner parties. I know! Dinner parties? Are people really still having those? Once in a while someone will ring and ask if you want to come over for, 'you know, a drink and a bit of food' - but hardly ever.

And no one uses the words 'dinner party', because the DP went out with rag rolling and makes everyone think of Austrian frilly blinds and oaky Chardonnay. The last place on earth you want to be in the autumn of 2018, even with the assistance of class A drugs, is a dinner party.

Which is why, I would wager, the existence of the dinner party has been greatly exaggerated. It is one of those things we're supposed to be doing - and we're told that everyone is doing - when actually no one really is. Other misconceptions in this vein include...

1. We're all talking about sex, including fantasies

BBC show Wanderlust, which follows a middle-class couple trying to spice up their sex life, has a lot to answer for here. It is possible that people are choreographing their sexual fantasies, rather than just getting their heads down, so to speak, in the arrow slit of opportunity between last phone check of the night and passing out, but we have yet to meet one.

All the people we know are amazed if they have any sex at all, other than in air-conditioned rooms on holiday, when they've had plenty of rest, not too much to eat or drink and there's nothing on the TV.

2. Everyone else has delightful children

Yes, theirs volunteered in Burkina Faso, cleared up plastic in Indonesia, had a charity job all the way through university and always engage adults in interesting conversation. So charming. Then one of yours sees one of theirs at a festival and they are selling 12 kinds of drugs and a ground-to-air missile out of their dad's bell tent.

3. Most women our age are serene and content

No. They are on pills. Also worth bearing in mind is that just because others do not enter a room wailing about our useless millennial children, husband having lost our bike lock key, and the cost of plumbers, it doesn't mean they are not losing it in their own way. Many people are silently inwardly screaming.

4. Everyone is cooking delicious, imaginative recipes

Yes, but only when you're looking. The Ottolenghi smorgasbord they rustle up when you pop round (for a NOT dinner party) is showing off. On a normal night they do what you do: buy a chicken the day before. Realise it's too late to roast a chicken. Dash to Tesco for sausages, decide that would be three processed meat nights on the trot, so instead buy pasta sauce and a lettuce.

5. Everyone has a smooth running domestic system

It is true that a lot of people know where the insurance form is and the washing machine guarantee; they remember all their passwords and where they put the radiator key. But sometimes, even the masters of the universe mess up badly. Look closer and you will discover they are the ones who miss flights.

6. Everyone has a fitness programme

They certainly did. It's just that it only lasted for four days in early January... The real middle-class fitness programme is more procrastination than perspiration. We bought the fancy athleisure gear but, so far, we've only worn it for a Saturday morning coffee run. We extol the virtues of intermittent fasting but we haven't actually got around to trying it yet.

7. Everyone always has the right thing to wear

Not the spectacular stuff, just a really good trouser suit from Zara, a sweater, and some ankle boots, none of which we saw when we went in. Some women are gifted shopping hounds.

But most of us wear 20pc of the clothes we own, have no idea what we do own, and almost never have the right thing to wear. Every morning we think: 'Why have I got 14 pairs of black trousers and literally no tops? What's wrong with me?'. Statistically, we are the norm.

Irish Independent

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