Party pic

Photo Credit: Cynthia Lively

May 8, 2024–Being invited to a dinner party is like entering Carnegie Hall–you are expected to be the audience or the performer. For some of us, either is a burden.

I’ve thought about this a lot. Why do most normal people enjoy dining at someone else’s home, while others do not? I have theories.

Keeping Up With The Thagstroms

Admit it. You can’t go into someone’s home without automatically taking inventory of the square footage, furnishings, fine art over the sofa and lack of dust bunnies under it. Ever since Ugg and Urr were invited to the Thagstroms’ cave, humankind has compared the size of stalagmites.

Intimidation by World Travelers

Extending the theme, some people’s homes are so dripping with artifacts they rival a museum. Decorations from around the world speak of a rich and fascinating life. Walls hang with alpaca rugs from Peru, shields and spears from Africa, a mounted moose head from the Yukon, and mukluks from Moscow. Meanwhile, your art runs from a plaster cast of your hand in kindergarten to the laminated jigsaw puzzle your grandma left you.

The Burden of Listening

There is nothing harder than “listening.” I don’t know why it takes so much energy to hear someone’s recounting of the time they got to meet the rhythm guitar player of the Journey tribute band at a Holiday Inn in North Platte, Nebraska, but it just does.

Feeling Trapped

Dinner guests are flies in a host’s web. They draw you in with food, wine, and hospitality. They suck you dry. Then, like in the Eagles song, you can never leave.

Cult of Wine

In college, wine was a way to get a buzz before the 3 Dog Night concert. It has turned into a post-graduate seminar discussion of tannins, mouthfeel, woodiness and earthiness. Sipping a glass of merlot in public is the manifestation of the nightmare of a pop quiz you didn’t study for.

Couples Friends

You pick your friends. You pick your nose. You do not pick your friend’s nose.

Same with your spouse’s friend’s nose.


Accepting a dinner invitation is like the old Columbia Record come-on, where they sent you 20 record albums for a penny. No one read the fine print that locked you into 24 monthly payments for subsequent selections. Once you accept that first dinner invitation, you face two years of exchanging meals.

Politics and Religion

No matter how you try to curate it, each person’s politics slip out, and they never align. Or worse is being seated at the table with the conspiracy theorist, the reformed sinner, the classic movie fan, and the Beanie Baby collector.

You’re Not That Interesting

You might be self-conscious that you have never hiked the Appalachian Trail while writing your novel with original sketches. In fact you might have never left the county you and your parents and grandparents were born in. You can’t fathom why anyone would desire your company longer than it takes to exchange insurance cards.

Whatever your reasons for declining a dinner invitation–even if you just don’t like to use the bathroom in other people’s houses–there is no need to be ashamed. Embrace your reticence. Live your truth. Revel in your lack of erudition while sitting on your sagging couch sipping supermarket cabernet.

It’s OK to not be that interesting.