There are a variety smells that you associate with very specific events in your life. I’m not certain, but I could swear my first kiss was wearing a stolen bottle of her mom’s Clinique Happy when we kissed underneath a streetlight in front of my old house. I can differentiate between my aunt’s hashbrowns and normal hashbrowns. And the smell of a snuffed candle will forever take me back to my dad letting me help clean up after they’d throw one of their dinner parties.
Because in the 90s, dinner parties seemed to run as rampant as perms, Zima, and banning your kids from watching that dreadful MTV. Every Friday or Saturday night, my parents either were heading out for a dinner or cocktail party, or they were furiously running around the house trying to make sure everything was in order before anywhere between three to six couples showed up for the duration of the night to laugh at each other’s jokes and gossip about the couples who didn’t make the cut when the invite phone calls were made.
“Do you want to take the coats tonight?” they’d ask me before I’d bring my mom’s friend’s fur coat to their bedroom where I’d jump on the bed and pass out watching The Sandlot or Mighty Ducks. I’d hide upstairs looking through our banister while there appeared to be a Gatsby-esque party below my feet with people telling dirty stories and drinking even dirtier martinis. Lavish or not, everything seemed lavish when you’re an 8-year-old kid in pajamas watching people eat shrimp cocktails and drink fancy named things that came out of bottles with corks.
But those days seemed to have come and gone. Vanished into thin air like the notion that it was okay to smoke indoors or drink roadies anywhere you went. The pageantry of a well-thrown dinner party is nothing but a thing of the past. A relic of a time gone by where the preparations included (but were not limited to) loading the 8-CD changer with the Sister Act soundtrack, Kenny G., and Michael Bolton. Dinner parties, or even cocktail parties for that matter, feel as out of place as oversized pleated khakis and turtleneck sweaters on men. Frankly, it’s upsetting.
I want to think it’s a sign of the times. “There are too many good restaurants,” you say. “No one owns houses anymore,” you tell me. “It’s expensive to throw a party for ten people,” you complain while Venmo’ing your friend $40 for a lunch that includes nothing more than a half-eaten sandwich and a split bottle of rosé. But that’s hogwash; nothing more than a slew of excuses to get out of doing a few dishes and stocking your bar up for the first time since you moved in.
There don’t need to be caterers, valets, bartenders, and a cleanup crew. There doesn’t need to be a cold seafood bar or a tower of overflowing champagne cups next to an ice sculpture. Just a case of discounted wine, the sweet sounds of a jazzy Spotify playlist, and enough couples in attendance that a request of “just bring over an appetizer” will fill the house with all the food you need. Hell, if you have kids, there you have your doormen and cleanup crew. It’s amazing the motivation an 8-year-old will have if promised five bucks and a taste of champagne. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I understand that, yes, these parties are going to be less Instagrammable than sushi at Ginger or stone oven pizza at Crust. But once you light a few tall candles, turn the volume dial up after dinner, and pop open that expensive bottle of wine you were intending to save for a special occasion, life’s troubles will fall by the wayside and everything else will fall into place. Between the wine and dip you brought to share and your Uber rides there and back, you’ll end up having a rip-roaring good old-fashioned 90s time for the price of one single steak at Chop.
But now that you bring it up, how did all of our parents get home from these things when there wasn’t Uber to shuttle everyone home once the red wine and martinis ran dry? Eh, some things are better left in the past. .
Image via Netflix / Frasier