I came across an amusing essay by Katie Roiphe, recently, in which she advised the hostess of a dinner party to include single people in the mix. (“Odd One In,” by Katie Roiphe, Town&Country, Feb. 2016, pg. 82,86.) Couples, she insists, “rarely engage in electrifying talk,” and tend to “inhibit one another from revealing too much.” Certainly no one among established couples would stop conversation with the announcement, “Saturday, I lost my virginity.” (Ibid, pg. 82.)
Roiphe has a point. Though in my case, a single woman among grey haired peers, the shock of hearing such a confession would stem, not from a sense of impropriety, but from a wonder it took me so long. But I get her drift. Being alone at a dinner party, I’m not subjected to frowns from a companion or forced to brace for a kick under the table. Any faux pas falls on my shoulders, alone. On the other hand, I’m free to speak my mind, a candor Roiphe suggests gives conversation an edge.
A guest who is solo can be blunt about the world. Opinions given aren’t honed as they are among couples long used to knowing what topics to avoid. Politics, religion, sex and money, these are all fair game for the single person. Even a little flirtation is possible if one can stomach the glare from an offended spouse. This wild abandon peppers the room, says Roiphe, providing an atmosphere of unpredictability where danger can follow.
Having been the odd one out at many dinner parties, I can attest to the truth of the author’s opinion. Frankly, I marvel that year after year my friends set a place for me in their midst. Why do they do it? On occasion, I detect a little matchmaking, even as I approach 80. Like the Stepford Wives, a desire to make me one of them seems to persist. Or are their motives less ambitious? Could they simply want a little peace at the table?