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The Dinner Party
For generations it was the mainspring, the proof, and the reward of a civilized social life. Now, a fond student of the ritual looks back on the golden age of the dinner party and tells you just how you should have behaved.
September/october 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 6
Now that I have put them down, some of these admonitions seem like rather poor advice for a dinner party these days. A man can get slugged for complimenting a woman’s shoulders, for example. And at least in New York you should probably speak to the servers whenever you can. Most of them are actors or artists and have more intelligent things to say than many of the guests. Still, these old rules from my father continue to roll around in my head. Try as I might, it is no more possible for me to strike out into totally new modes of social behavior than it is for an Atlantic salmon to spawn in the Nile. Meanwhile, no matter how I behave, I suspect dinner parties will continue to go on all over the world—some of them, darn it all, without me.