How Living in a City Ruins Dinner Parties (and How I’m Fighting Back)

published Sep 14, 2017
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Some of my post-college friends have been in my life for more than 10 years. And yet, I have never seen where many of them live. In any normal town, this would be super strange. But in New York City, it feels totally acceptable.

I assume my friends live somewhere, right? They must have a place they call home. With a kitchen (or at least some of the makings of a kitchen, this is NYC we’re talking about here). And a bed? Or a couch? Who knows? Not me — because, again, I’ve never been over.

I see these people all the time. We go to brunch, meet for happy hour, grab dinner, get ice cream. We even — sometimes — hang out without food! We do so many things! We just don’t exactly have each other over. That means dinner parties are especially out of the question.

How Cities Ruin Dinner Parties

Apartments in nearly every major city are small. You know that. It’s just the way things are. What does that mean for the people who live there? It means it’s hard to find a place to store extra chairs. It also means it’s hard to have people over for dinner (especially if your only table is a coffee table) and to cook all the food required for a dinner party. (Note: None of this is to say that it can’t be done. There are people in the city who throw dinner parties. My friends are just not some of them. Even the New York Times knows what I’m talking about: A few years ago, the paper ran a story saying the dinner party was becoming extinct in New York.)

Plus, there are just so many bars and restaurants. I can throw a pebble from my window right now (but I won’t because that is dangerous!) and hit no less than three restaurants. And I’m not even good at throwing things! It’s just so easy for us to be like “Eh, let’s just meet at Rosemary’s!” Especially if I haven’t had a chance to walk the 12 blocks to get to Trader Joe’s or, if I’m being honest, clean my bathroom. Plus, restaurants have outdoor seating and I do not! (Again, I barely even have seating!) So usually, I end up meeting a friend or three at a restaurant. We have some drinks and snacks, pay, and part ways.

There are a few issues with this. For one, bars and restaurants are expensive! (So are rents, and we have to pay those things no matter what.) They’re also less intimate, making it tough to have serious conversations. Restaurants also follow a cadence and, once the bill comes, you’re usually supposed to pay it and leave — whether you’re done talking or not. Plus, my friends and I all like to entertain!

How I’m Fighting Back

A few of my friends and I decided to stop meeting up at restaurants. We can still drink wine and hang out, but it has to be at someone’s apartment. If we’re headed to my place, I just pick up whatever I can that day for us to much on. If that means hummus, carrot sticks, and popcorn, well, that’s what we’re having. Whoever’s coming over is in charge of picking up a bottle of wine on their way. And if the bathroom isn’t clean, who cares? By entering each other’s apartments, we’ve signed a figurative oath not to judge or be grossed out. We don’t apologize for the lack of cleanliness or real food. (We can always order something in if we get desperate!) We sit on the couch or the floor and get down to chatting.

We’ve found our conversations to be deeper and longer. We get a kick out of seeing how everyone lives. (Yes, my apartment floors are slightly slanted! Thank you for noticing!) And it makes us feel even closer. There’s just something so intimate about grabbing a bottle of wine out of your friend’s fridge.

I do realize this little gathering is not a dinner party, but it’s something. And I’ll take it.

Related: 5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party (and Seeing Your Friends More Often)

Can you relate? What are you doing to stay connected with your friends?