Hostesses With The Mostest > Entertaining and Hospitality

Dinner Party from Hell

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My boyfriend has a friend, W, who is married to K.  W and K have been married for about 2 years now and have started a "tradition" of annual Thanksgiving dinner parties with my boyfriend, myself, and two other friends of theirs.  The behavior this couple exhibits at these dinner parties is more than enough to commit them both to Etiquette Hell forever!

A little background on W and K: W is a fantastic chef, but a bit of a misogynist and control freak.  W has also made some very rude and dismissive comments to me in the past when I was just trying to engage his interests in friendly conversation.  K lives in a bit of a dreamworld that's stuck firmly in the Victorian era and Edwardian England.  Her idea of a good time with friends is a group reading of a Jane Austen or Bronte novel, which isn't that big of a deal; however, K insists that the books be read while speaking in funny English voices ::).  They rarely want to go out and do anything (their excuse is it's too expensive), but they want to spend a fortune on a fancy dinner (aren't duck and lamb fairly expensive?) and refuse our offers to either help with cost or additional sides/appetizers/desserts.  They insist that we come over to their place at noon when dinner is many hours away, and then we have to sit there at their tiny apartment for hours and hours and hours doing practically nothing and being bored to tears.  W is busy cooking all day and takes my boyfriend to help in the kitchen.  When there is a lull in the cooking, W goes to the computer and plays video games while everyone else has to sit and watch.  K is chased out of the kitchen every time she tries to help and she answers all of my attempts at conversation with one-word replies.  The only TV is in the bedroom. K insists that it's rude to have one in the living room where guests and hosts should be having nice conversations--which seems contradictory since she makes no effort to start or participate in one.

Both of the Thanksgiving dinners that my boyfriend and I have been subjected to are prime examples of what horrible hosts these people are.  Dinner #1 in November of 2005 was probably the better of the two.  The worst thing that happened (other than the 7 hour wait for food described above) was that, when prompted by another guest, K gave her opinion on her sex life.  Ewwww.  Bad topic for any guest to bring up when other people are eating or ever, for that matter.  Worse than that, K's opinion of sex was that she "just didn't like it at all."  This was said in front of her new husband, my boyfriend, myself, and the two other guests, both young women :o.  How embarassing for a newlywedded man!  W moaned and comically crawled--yes crawled--across the floor to the bathroom where he hid in the tub until K apologized.  Things got worse when the other two guests voiced the opinion that having sex was like picking someone else's nose.  This while we were all still eating what was otherwise a fantastic meal.  If you find the act that disgusting, ladies, then why did you bring it up at dinner in the first place?!!!!

Despite the major faux pas commited at Dinner #1, Dinner #2 by far takes the cake! 

First of all, W phoned my boyfriend several weeks ahead of time with an invitation to the dinner and said that he could bring me along as his date.  Fine by me.  However, W insisted that we both come over at noon.  We wouldn't be having dinner until 6pm!  My boyfriend is pleased to have an excuse this time: he'll be working until 6pm that day.  W grudgingly agrees to move dinner back to 7pm.  As the day of the dinner approaches (it is set for the 24th of November), my boyfriend and I begin to dread going, but decide to be polite and go anyway.  Two days before, I recieve an interesting message on my answering machine.  It's W saying that he has yet to receive my RSVP to the Thanksgiving dinner, which is set at 6pm on the 24th.  I dread calling W; pulling teeth is more pleasant than having a phone conversation with him!  Besides, neither my boyfriend or I received a formal paper invitation to this shindig, and W made it quite clear in the very beginning that I was to be my boyfriend's guest and hence I didn't receive a phone invite in the first place!  My boyfriend calls W to say that I am coming as his guest and that the time must be moved back to 7pm--remember, this is the day after Black Friday and traffic is going to be crazy. 

The day of the Dinner from Hell finally arrives.  My boyfriend comes straight from work to pick me up at my apartment.  It is approximately 6:30, giving us an half hour to get to W and K's apartment.  We arrive, exactly on time by both our watches and W and K's clock.  We're greeted and invited to sit down.  There are half-eaten bread bowls of soup sitting at K's, W's, and the other two guest's (whom I'm assuming came at noon as initially requested--poor girls!) places at the table.  There are two other empty places for my boyfriend and myself.  They had gone ahead and said grace and served the first course ahead of time >:(!  The other guests looked embarrassed.  K and W explain that they tried calling over to my apartment to see where we were and only got an answering machine and so decided to serve 10-15 minutes early.  Wouldn't any normal person automatically assume that if you're getting someone's home answering machine that that person is in transit and will be there shortly?

The rudeness continued throughout the night, though my boyfriend and I were saved from any sex talk at the table.  First off, dinner had not been completed as of yet, and W was up from the table finishing things.  He spent very little time at the table for most of the entire meal.  Each of our courses was served both onto the table and then onto our plates by W.  Gee thanks, W, if I had wanted asparagus spears I would have put them onto my own plate!  The food was wonderful, but again, this is a dinner with friends not a gourmet restaurant experience, and I would have appreciated it if our host could have plopped his butt into his seat for 5 consecutive minutes and contributed to the sparse conversation at the table.  W and K are also strictly anti-alcohol (no big deal to me, other than the fact that W feels the need to soapbox on the subject whenever he has the chance), but to our great surprise what does W do on one of his many trips back to the kitchen but pull a bottle of champagne from the freezer.  When asked if we want some, my boyfriend and I politely declined lest we incite W to jump up on his soapbox.  W attempted to open the bottle, but corks it.  One by one, he pulls 3 additional bottles (anti-alcohol and 4 bottles of champagne  ???) from the freezer and corks those as well.  He refuses to pour the corked champagne and sulks at the table for the rest of the dinner.

Oh, and did I mention the conversation was fairly sparse?  Sparser then normal actually, because K had a migraine headache.  In fact she had had a migraine for the past few days.  She had woken up that morning with the migraine.  She had spent the entire day with said migraine and no medicine that she possessed was able to put a dent in the pain.  As soon as we had finished the last course, she stood up and said she was going to go in "here" and vaguely motions in the direction of the bathroom and bedroom.  She doesn't excuse herself, just leaves.  We assumed initially that she was in the bathroom.  Actually, she was in the bedroom, where she ended up spending the rest of the night.  W becomes embarassed and gripes about her migraines.  I wondered why she didn't just call everyone and cancel the dinner if she was in that much pain for that long of a time, then realized that W probably bullied her into it.  The nerve of K to interfere with his fancy duck dinner!  W begins to clear the table and waves off everyone who tries to help.  He then proceeds to clean everything--dishes, serving platters, cooking utensils, the table--while the guests sit uncomfortably in the living room with nothing for entertainment except W and K's pet bird that bites.  The two girls go into the bedroom to see to K.  My boyfriend and I see our chance to escape and make a get-away! 

BTW, since we had an early night, we called up a bunch of other friends and had a lovely time with them at my apartment!  We've both been avoiding W and K since the Dinner Party from Hell!       

After that first party, I wouldn't have gone to the second.  Both sound horrible.

I think it's time for your boyfriend to drop W and K from his social list.  Make other plans for Thanksgiving from now on.

How do these people still have guests to invite?  No food can be good enough to trump rudeness like this.

The Austen and Bronte readings are ironic, in view of how many insane etiquette violations happen in this situation.  And if you're going to read these aloud in a British accent, at least be sure you can do a proper one!

I agree with you, Venus.  I think that I would rather eat at one of our many fast food restaurants then spend 5 minutes with a preachy misogynist control freak no matter how talented of a chef he is.  The OP and her boyfriend are wise to avoid these people. 

Reading this, I don't really see such massive etiquette violations, as I do see really unpleasant people that you don't get along with.

Serving dinner 15 minutes early is rude, but nothing else (on K and W's part) struck me as rude (strange, annoying and disturbing, yes-rude, not really).

I have spent some lovely afternoons at friends or family's houses doing nothing but preparing dinner with everyone and don't see anything rude about inviting someone over at 12 for dinner at 6. (I'm not saying I'd want to spend that time sitting a room with someone who isn't really speaking and I don't actually like). I've also spent some pleasant afternoons shouting encouragement from the living room, as others cooked (and vice versa).


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