MY HATRED FOR GIGANTIC, OBNOXIOUS BIRTHDAY DINNERS

art by  sam walsh  - dinner party, 1980

art by sam walsh - dinner party, 1980

It’s always nice to be invited. Even when the invitation is to the birthday party of your friend from high school that you love but really only speak to once a year. The thought of attending their birthday sounds fun. But the execution… not so much.

Here you are, all dressed up, on time to this hella expensive steakhouse, with not a soul in sight. Looks like everyone is fashionably late yet again, while you were wishing for a quick turnaround so you can finish your meal and get home before ten. You’re feeling anxious and like you don’t belong, and that’s definitely not going to subside once twenty-five people you vaguely know of through social media show up. You have your friend’s present in your hand, and you’re already regretting your entire life because you forgot the birthday card, and what is a present without a card?

The birthday party attendees start to roll up. You immediately feel stupid in what you thought was your version of “dressing up”, when it turns out to be wildly inferior to your designer-clad counterparts. Somehow you are pushed to all the way to the end of the table even though you got there first, seated next to your friend's college classmates you have never spoken to. Your friend gives you a quick hello and goes to the center of this enormous, medieval King Arthur’s table and sits like a queen, your gift being passed down the table to her. She opens it and finds blue earrings you picked out last week. You’re pleased with how beautiful they are, and your friend looks delighted as she puts them on. There’s no card, so she says, “Aww, who got me these?” And before you can even muster up a quick “It was me! Happy Birthday!”, she is already distracted by more of her friends walking in late and buzzing around her like flies.

The dinner is awkward not just because you’re at the deep end of the table with pockets of out-of-town friend groups who don’t even look at you, but also because apparently so-and-so doesn’t like so-and-so and He and She dated so don’t even speak to Him or you’re going to agitate Her. Those two over there subtweeted those are two over there, so please make sure to only pick one party to interact with tonight. The waiter gets your order wrong but that’s okay. You want to run away but you don’t want to be the dick that leaves, so you sit there for two and a half hours surrounded by twenty-five people all dressed up on a Friday night and still the loneliest you have been in a long, long time.

The bill comes, of course, it’s divided evenly. So you end up paying the same price as the people that ordered the porterhouse steak and two bottles of Malbec. You don’t even say anything because you don’t want to cause a scene or look cheap. You just want to get out of there. So you pay and leave quickly since no one even notices or bothers to stop you to stay goodbye. You can’t blame them, because you have no idea who they are anyway. Your earrings are swishing pretty on the birthday girl’s earlobes every time she turns her head, and you feel a slight bitterness in your mouth when you realize she doesn’t know who got her those, and you just spent your week’s salary on a tab where you didn’t even get to try the garlic bread.