Unless you’re very experienced in such things or you just don’t give a flying fig, when planning a dinner party you can expect to pass through the following ten stages:
- Inspiration A brilliant idea hits you, one which you wish to cook up and share with other people. You picture your event as something worthy of a four-color glossy spread in Gourmet Magazine: beautiful people in a beautiful place saying beautiful things with beautiful drinks in their hands and noshing on beautiful foods.
- Exuberance Bubbling over with ideas and excitement you invite everyone you know, ignoring for a moment that you only own four chairs, eight plates (on a good day) and not enough silverware to both serve food and eat it.
- Realization Of the ‘everyone’ on the invite list ‘everyone minus two’ agrees that your dinner is a great idea and that attendance is required. You start doing the chair/plate/silverware math. You start sketching out the realistic requirements for your grand plan. Your eyes start to widen.
- Panic Common thoughts entering your mind at this stage include, “What in the bloody hell was I thinking?” and “Maybe I could contract hantavirus before then so I don’t have to follow through.”
- Resignation Fate is a swift beastie and you recognize that you can’t outrun her. Heavy sighs are heaved, a few teeth are gnashed and perhaps a garment or two is rent but in the end you admit that you have to see this through and hope either that your death from shame is swift and painless or that you emerge stronger at the other end of the ordeal.
- Planning There are those who mistakenly place this stage near the top of the list, somewhere between Inspiration and Exuberance. These people are fulltime residents of their own personal fantasy lands. This stage cannot occur until you have met your enemy and have realized that it is you. This normally occurs sometime shortly after reviewing the newly-devised menu.
- Execution Contrary to the sound (or your desire), this stage does not typically involve any killing but it is comprised of much hunting as you search high and low for the ingredients required for the ambitious menu set forth in the previous stage. This stage also contains the first forays into food preparation and cooking.
- Panic It is the day of the party and you are as organized as a three-year-old who breakfasted on Fruity Pebbles topped with Red Bull. Hercules himself never faced a labor so hopeless as the task before you and the stables of Augeas are pristine compared to the state of your home/kitchen/mind.
- Disbelief Your first guest arrives, inevitably moments after you deem the home worthy of guests and moments before you notice the dirty underwear you missed when making the clean sweep of the bedroom which will hold the coats. Dinner goes off with hardly a hitch, but that’s because your friends are there to hang out and enjoy themselves and wouldn’t mind if you just ordered out pizza and served cheap Trader Joe’s wines.
- Collapse Everyone has gone home. A fun time was had by all, yourself excepted. You stare blankly at the piles of unwashed dishes and opt to knock back a good stiff drink and then melt into bed, saving the washing up for the morning.
For the record, I’m currently entrenched in Stage 6. Stages 3, 4 and 5 were a real bitch. I can hardly wait to reach Stage 8. That one’s always a trip.