Monday, April 03, 2006

The Dinner Party

I survived the dreaded Dinner Party, and thought I'd report back on how it went. It probably would have gone a lot better if I'd had annegb telling me what to say through an earpiece.

I try to be friendly in social situations, but it doesn't mask the fact that I am very socially awkward around people I don't know. Once you get to know me, you'll find out that I never shut up, but when I am meeting people I am very reserved and shy.

There were only about 14 people total at the party, which was held at the house of a very senior (and very important) partner. He was a dead ringer for Arvin Sloane from Alias, so I'll call him Sloane. The first problem (during the meet and mingle part of the dinner) was that they didn't have any non-alcoholic beverages. Now, I don't believe in the Word of Wisdom, but I've never had any alcohol for a variety of complicated reasons. I wasn't going to have my first glass of wine at some stuffy dinner party. So I was the only schmo standing around without a glass. It took great amounts of self-control to keep from fiddling with the cuffs of my suit coat. It helped that everyone at the party was very nice, but it's hard socializing with people my parents' age. We just don't have that much in common.

When the mingling part was finally over, we were invited to find our names on the dinner table and sit down. I found mine, but Maude kept walking until she was on the opposite side of the room. They had split everyone up, and inexplicably sat me next to Arvin Sloane, and Maude next to his wife on the far side of the room. He spent most of his time talking to the associate seated on the other side of him (I'll call her Sidney), and I didn't say much.

After a while, the conversation between Sloane and Sidney turned to books, which is one of the few topics I know a lot about, but they mostly talked about books I haven't read, like The Da Vinci Code. I mean, I know it took three years to come out in paperback for a reason, but I didn't realize that Maude and I are the last two people on Earth who haven't read it. Sloane said he wasn't a big reader, but that he did enjoy the Harry Potter books. The woman on the other side of me asked him if they would be appropriate for her six-year-old. He said they probably weren't inappropriate but they got darker. I brilliantly commented that they were good for kids because they started out slowly, and gradually became longer and more complex.

Ned: "I mean, the first one is only 150 pages and the last one is about 800 pages long."
Sloane: "No, it's not 150 pages. It's not that short."
Ned: "Uh..."

What can I say? He was right. I was exaggerating. A socially-skilled person would said something, anything, to move the conversation along. Me? I shoveled some more steak into my mouth and waited for the conversation to move on. (Full disclosure: I've only read the first 3 and a half Harry Potter books. Maude's a big fan. The first two: meh. The third one wasn't bad.)

I didn't really mind going to the dinner, I just hated letting Maude down. I mean, these events are mostly just for networking and getting to know people at the firm. Maude is a great lawyer (especially for a first-year) but I'm not exactly helping getting her name out there with my awkwardness. I mean, what is Sloane going to remember from the dinner? Probably nothing, but he may remember that he had a nice conversation with the associate sitting on the other side of him. The whole evening would have been perfectly fine if Maude and I had been able to switch seats.

In retrospect, it probably would have been better if I'd told the knock-knock jokes.


Finally, on an unrelated note, I'd like to thank my guest-blogger M for his coding prowess and getting my picture back on the front page of the blog. M, you are appreciated. As well as a very cool song by the Cure.


m said...

no problem putting the flander's pic up. this place needed a little sprucing up anyway.

sounds like you made it through the dinner okay. did you get to tell anyway of your knock-knock jokes?

Hellmut said...

You had the smartest and most beautiful wife at the party. Everybody envied you.

NFlanders said...

Aww, you are too nice, Hellmut. Thanks.

Eddie said...

Ned, look at the bright side. If it had been Arvin Sloane, and you hadn't impressed him, he probably would have killed you.

NFlanders said...

Good point, Eddie. Worse though, would have been Jack Bristow. If I had made a disparaging remark about his daughter, he could have killed, brought me back to life, and killed me again.

gst said...

Here's the joke I told at my first firm dinner party, at some big shot partner's Malibu house: Someone told a true story about driving through a canyon and arriving on the scene of a deer just recently killed by a car, and was touched by the fact that the deer's companions remained there, staring mutely at their fallen brother. Not exactly great fodder for generating light and lively conversation. So I said, "You know what one of those deer was thinking? 'I always hated that guy.'"

The wives were horrified, but the partners immediately knew that I was their kind of jerk.