rules of engagement

In the last month or so I’ve been attending a lot of birthday celebrations, and they all typically start out with a large dinner.

This is exciting for me because eating out is one of my favorite things to do.  I’m doing all the same things I do at home – drinking excessive amounts of wine, having semi-intelligent conversation and eating myself into a food coma – only I’m somewhere else!  It’s like a vacation away from the table at my apartment.

Most of these dinner celebrations that I go to go well, and that’s because I am keen to the fact that when going to a large dinner, one thing you must always remember is that it’s all about where you sit.

If you choose the wrong place, you could spend the entire dinner talking to some dude you barely know about how much his pants cost when your good friends are at the opposite end of the table engrossed in an argument over who would win in a race, Superman or The Flash.

You will curse yourself over and over again, wondering why, when you had the chance to properly sidle up next to your friends, you were checking out the menu with all the “funny drink names.”

Then, as you sit there and try and drink yourself into liking the couple of people you’ve been seated around, you must watch in pain as everyone else laughs and laughs and isn’t everything in life just so great!

You make the wrong move and the dinner is hell.  Just like that.

Which is why I follow a few simple rules to make sure my Dinners With Lots Of People Including Some I Don’t Know go well.

First, I scope the scene.  As soon as everyone arrives, and we stand around all awkward because we haven’t started drinking yet, I am on the look out for People I Don’t Know.  I then mark them in my head by saying, “I don’t know that dude.”

This is very scientific.

Next, and most importantly, I make my move when we are casually entering the restaurant.  This is the best time for the move, because everyone is thinking that they are just having dinner with some friends, when in fact you are deciding between life and death.

Finally, if the previous step does not work, I resort to using mind games.  As we near the table, and I realize that I am dreadfully out of position, I will say something like, “Oh, that light is bright.”  When it isn’t even bright! Some sucker will always take the bait and you can switch seats with him and thus enjoy dinner like it was supposed to be.

I beg you, reread those steps.

Read them, know them and most of all – dear god – use them.

If none of that works, I have to tell you, all is lost.  Your best bet is to vomit on someone and leave, because that dinner is not going to be fun, it is just going to be one more Moment With Others that you regret.


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46 responses to “rules of engagement

    I almost want to be engaged – if only for the sheer number of sweet dinners and showers and such.

  2. I hate talking to people I know, let alone talking to people I don’t know.

    Unless I’m drunk, of course.

  3. I agree that people I don’t know are generally boringer (scientific term) than people I know, but the latter gives you the chance to invent a whole fictional persona for yourself. For example, I could be a rubber tree importer/exporter raised in Guam, but brought to the States after the Revolution.

    Or, I could just drink more.

  4. I actually seek out people that I don’t know very well so that I can make a terrible first impression. I call it “making friends” but I’m sure most people would call it social suicide.

    Also, I’m Canadian. We live for the awkward conversations about the rising cost of pants.

  5. You strategize a lot. I find pushing people out of the way and staging crying tantrums helps get my way.

  6. Matt

    The Flash would win.

    Hands down.

  7. Dinners with large groups are always tough. There’s always that one asshole who’s like “I didn’t have the bread basket so I’m not putting in an extra $10.”

    If you’re worried about the cash 1.) don’t go out! and/or 2.) get your own check.

    You hit a nerve here.

  8. The Flash would win, obvi. No need to debate on that one.

  9. You are cracking me up! A very close friend confided in me Sunday that her position in a restaurant/at the table has a direct correlation to her level of enjoyment ! I’ve known her almost 15 years and never knew this. She’s going to love this post.

  10. This is a very helpful post for me because I always get stuck sitting next to the girl nobody likes or the guy who plays D&D in his mom’s basement and thinks it’s fucking cool.

    Never. Again.

    Thank you Chris!

  11. Btw, your blog now has CROTCH ROT!!!

  12. never never get stuck on the very end or in the middle. instant seats of death.

  13. omg. I actually do that. Well, at least I’m not alone.

  14. I avoid the whole situation entirely by being so unpopular I never get invited out to any sort of dinners.

    And if someone does invite me, I figure they must be complete dipshits. Even *I* wouldn’t be seen with people who’d want to be seen with me.

  15. i would like to see your scientific approach to just about everything.

  16. I’ve never used the vomit tactic but it may be my go to move from now on.

  17. I can identify with this. I am very pouty and grumpy if I have to sit far away from my friends and sit by *their* stupid friends. Why do people even have stupid friends? Is it to make them look good? That’s just not fair to the rest of us.

  18. Well, that’s incredibly helpful, since I always end up seating next to people who constantly ask the same questions. Not once, but about 6576850 times. “What school did you say you attend?” or “What did you say you wanted to study afterwards?” blah blah blah.

    Well, if that wasn’t bad enough, they always have the same answer to my answers. And their answer is often a “short” story that lasts about 3 minutes. It is good once, but 6576850 times, nope.

    So, thank you 😉

  19. I used to have a friend who would always make sure I sat at the middle of the table, because my voice is too quiet to project beyond the person next to me. I still try and follow that model.

  20. So falling asleep at the dinner table with drool coming down your mouth is not an option I take it.


  21. Sadly, I have many Moments With Others that I regret

  22. Oh no! That’s the worst when people “laugh and laugh” and you’re excluded to conversation with Mr. Boring Pants. Seriously. I hear you. Another tip to remember is DO NOT GO TO THE BATHROOM before everyone sits or else you’ll come back and have to sit next to Booger Eater Bob b/c that’s the only seat left available.

  23. A very helpful post because half the time I end up sitting next to someone I don’t know or someone I can’t stand. It’s kind of hard to be nice and pretend to like them when you keep consuming drinks.

  24. If you do find yourself sitting next to people you don’t know, though, have some fun with them.

    Tell them you write porn articles. And work for NASA.

    Usually at the same time.

  25. longredcape

    This might be useful to me if only I actually got invited to social functions.

  26. I am behind on commenting here.

    Let me just say that this is something I do in my head but have never really thought about it. Now I will be able to refine my strategy.

    Also, Mexico looked awesome and drowning worms is dumb. And Flash is a funny name for a dog, but would be REALLY funny for a turtle.

  27. This makes me realize that lately, it’s been absolutely all work and no play for me. Sad.

  28. jay grochalski

    i find showing up already drunk to work the best. that way you don’t care who you sit next to, what you’re going to eat, or what the fuck people are talking about.

  29. I have printed this out and stuck it in my wallet for future use. I will not become victim to the bad side of the table!

  30. notesfromthelilypad

    Memorized, and ready to implement. So true!

  31. big time – I am a professional.

    kiala – Of course.

    pistols – Drinking more seems easier to me.

    aine – Well, you would’ve loved this one guy then.

    nilsa – Yes, crying is a good one – I might use that next time.

    matt – For sure.

    yourgirlfriend – I agree with you. I hate those people.

    arielle – Well, what if Superman took off his cape?

    gwen – It is a Rule of Life for me, and it seems, your friend.

    kristen – You’re welcome. And thanks for infecting me. Now my blog will never get laid.

    erikka – Words of wisdom.

    grace – There are thousands of us.

    justin – I bet those people are unhappy with themselves.

    gina – That is a very nice thing to say.

    jossie – It is the best, really.

    mermanda – Stupid people have stupid friends and then it just ends up this vicious cycle.

    andy – Hahaha – you’re welcome.

    noelle – Huh, I would’ve figured you’re a loud talker.

    marie – No, actually that sounds pretty good to me.

    alice – I call it “college.”

    hbee – Very good point.

    tiff – When in doubt, worry about the drinks, not them.

    arjewtino – And tell them that they might make the next article, if their night goes well.

    longred – You can come hang out with me.

    mindy – I think you covered all the bases.

    nicole – If you want tips on how to do nothing and party more, feel free to email me.

    jay – This goes for pretty much any situation too – funerals, christmas…

    lissa – Yes!

    lilypad – It can really save your life.

  32. That light is bright – That is pure genius. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before. God, what a relief: never again will I be forced to sit next to the smelly kid.

  33. NOW you tell me. Do you know how many times I’ve gotten stuck next to Margaret, who says fascinating things like “oh” and “yeah” all night long. And not in the good way.

  34. “That light is bright” is good! Substitute, *looking up* “Gee this seat is drafty, is there a fan?” and you’ve got me.

  35. You could always pretend you’re deaf. They don’t know you. Huh. I’d actually love to try that sometime myself.

    Thing is, once I start drinking I tend to get giggly and I’m afraid I might slip up and start talking.

  36. Far

    LOL having to resort to vomiting is nasty but I can see how it might be necessary lol.. i must remember these rules when I attend my next large dinner event!!

  37. i totally agree that where you sit is totally clutch to having fun. i always try and aim for t he middle of tables, get to be in multiple conversations. otherwise, i just drink a lot, haha.

  38. Agreed! Seating location is the ultimate decision in how the night will turn out. Glad to finally have some steps to ensure that I always get the prime location! Otherwise I’ll drown in my beverages of boredom and end up the incoherent drunk of the night. Not good!

  39. deutlich

    but.but.but… talking to strangers about the expensiveness of their pants is like, the best thing evar!

  40. Big dinner things should only happen at round tables.

  41. JK

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I now understand why I hate these situations and how I can remedy this next time. Thanks!

  42. Can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t laugh?? Really?? Okay… I just figured out a few months ago that Flash Gordon and The Flash are not the same person. I’m 37. I know! Isn’t that totally emabarrassing?? But in my own defense I am a girl. And we don’t care about superheroes as long as they look good in their tights. So you know, whatever. Wait, are you laughing?? Fine, laugh. Just don’t tell anyone, okay? You’re totally going to tell everyone, aren’t you? Damn. Well at least now you will have something to talk about with the boring guy you don’t know but have to sit next to at the next birthday dinner. So you’re welcome.

  43. You should patent this technique and sell it to millions of Home Shopping Network-ers.

  44. What the fuck does it take to end up higher than 35 on the comment list around here? Dammit, people.

    I think your rules will also be useful when attending sporting events with large groups. Linear seating is especially unforgiving. And getting stuck on the end sucks regardless.

  45. Feel your pain Mickey haha.

    Usually I trip the people over if they’re going to take the seat that I claimed in my head WAY before we even entered the place.

  46. tia

    it’s hilarious to watch guys try to to talk to other guys that they don’t know/like and still be polite.

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