Here is the story of how my husband plays a game of “guess who’s coming to dinner” and I try to handle each situation as best as I can.
There were numerous times when I would get a phone call at work around noon to be informed by my husband that he had invited 10 people over for dinner that very same night. In which case I would have to rush out of work early in frenzy to do grocery shopping, get home, clean up the house and have dinner ready for when the people arrived.
That was followed with desperate pleas to husband to please, please, please inform me a few days ahead whenever he wanted to invite people over for dinner so that I would have some time to prepare.
Then there was the time my husband invited people from his work to a dinner party at our house only he got the dates mixed up and told different people different dates and so some people arrived to the party on a Saturday and others arrived the following Sunday …. Thank god for leftovers.
That was followed with me making up a rule that next time he invites a big group of people over for dinner. I will write up the dinner invitation text with the correct date and time and forward it to my husband by email and he has to copy the exact copy of the text that I sent him and email it to all his invitees un-altered.
“Guess who’s coming for dinner” game only got more challenging after that.
Then there was the time he invited three people for dinner, one was an Israeli who spoke nothing but Hebrew, the second was a Palestinian who spoke nothing but Arabic and the third was a visiting student from China who spoke Chinese and poor English. I spent the whole evening attempting to keep a conversation going, by asking one of our guests a question and then simultaneously translating it into the other two languages and then translating the responses back. Back and forth in Arabic, Hebrew and English for hours. By the end of the evening I was beyond exhausted and suffered from headache.
This was followed by me making up a rule that he was only allowed to invite people at the same time if all of them shared a common language.
“Guess who’s coming for dinner” was taken to new levels after that.
Then there was the mother of all dinner pranks that my husband played on me. It all started with me coming home early from work because Mordecai – a good friend of many years -was visiting us from abroad. His visit was arranged weeks ahead. He was arriving late in the evening and so I had plenty of time to get the guest bedroom ready and make a nice dinner for our dear friend. I knew that my husband was working late that night in a laboratory where there are no phone lines and my husband couldn’t be contacted. As soon as I stared frying some onions in frying pan in preparation for my stuffed grape vine leaves (called dolma in Iraq). The phone rang.
Man: Hello! … I am Vincent … I arrived.
Man: I am Vincent, I am here, I am at the central bus station, when will you come to get me?
ihath: what? …. (I never met or knew this guy at all)
Vincent: Your husband said that I could spend the night at your house and that you would come pick me up from the central bus station. I just arrived from France.
Vincent: So, when will you come and get me?
ihath: errr …. (hesitation …. thinking on my feet …) I am coming right away.
So I packed my two year old daughter into her car seat and drove to the central bus station. My husband never informed me of a Vincent that was going to stay with us on that evening, but I couldn’t call my husband to confirm the story with him. As I was driving there I kept on thinking to myself “I hope I am not on my way to pick up a serial killer”. I arrived at the busy bus station looking for what might be a French man named Vincent. In one corner, next to a public phone I saw a scrawny young man with a lost look on his face, I asked him if he was Vincent and he responded with a big smile. A hand shake was followed by quick introductions and soon enough Vincent was in my car on his way to my place. On the way home, a terrifying scenario occurred to me. “My husband arrives home from work late, and no look of recognition appears on his face. Instead I get a puzzled look and get asked the question -Who is this guy?. Then ,in panic, I have to explain to my husband that I received a phone call from a young man I never met before and then I proceeded to collect him from the central bus station, brought him home and decided to give him dinner.” … “Oh my God! … I hope my husband does actually know this guy” I kept praying as I drove home. Dinner was not even started and so heated up some leftovers for Vincent. As we sat chatting together, Vincent informed me that he was a former student of my husband back in the days when my husband was teaching at Glasgow University. Luckily my husband did in fact recognize Vincent, when he arrived from work at last. After some chit chat and small talk, I gave my husband the look that communicates “I need to talk to you in the kitchen”
The following conversation happened in the kitchen.
husband: Look, I know what you gonna say. I am sorry I completely forgot that I had told Vincent that he could stay with us. I know I messed up.
ihath: But where is he going to stay? You know that our friend Mordecai is coming tonight. I already planned for him to stay in the guest room. This was planned weeks ago. Where is Vincent going to sleep?
husband: ( ..pauses … scratches his head) …I know. Our friend Simon is out of town and I have the key to his apartment. I will take Vincent to stay there.
ihath: But Simon comes back from Europe tonight.
husband: No he doesn’t, he comes back next week.
ihath: I distinctly remember that Simon said that he was coming back from his trip from Europe tonight.
husband: No, no, no, I am certain that Simon comes back next week.
ihath: Anyway, I don’t think that Simon will appreciate you letting some stranger stay at his place. He gave you the key to keep an eye on his place not to use his apartment as a hostel.
husband: Look! Don’t worry about this. Ok!. I created this mess, I will fix it. You go back to whatever you were planning to do and I will take care of the Vincent situation. Let me handle this. Ok!
ihath: sigh! … ok!
I go back to making dolma.
The next morning, bright and early, the phone rings. I answer the phone to find Simon on the other line. It turns out that Simon had met our friend Vincent already. Simon arrives from Europe after a long trip to his apartment late in the evening, all tired and jet lagged looking forwards to getting to bed, only to find a man he never met before in his bed. The young man was sleeping tight and so Simon walks out of his apartment and knocks on the door of the next door neighbor. The lady next door opens the door.
Lady Next Door: Hi, Simon you are back.
Simon: Hi, who is the man sleeping in my bed.
Lady Next Door: It is the French guy that came with your buddy.
Simon: What French guy?
Lady Next Door: I can’t remember his name, but he had a French accent and he come with your good friend. We figured since he was with your friend he was ok.
Simon: Ok, thank you. I will have to figure this out tomorrow morning.
So poor Simon goes to sleep on the couch in the living room of his own apartment. The next morning Vincent wakes up to find a man sleeping on the couch. The following conversation follows
Vincent: Who are you?
Simon: I am Simon, I live here, who are you?
Vincent: I am Vincent, I was brought here by your good friend.
So Simon makes him breakfast and arranges a taxi for Vincent’s next destination in his tour around the world.
This was followed by me abdicating any effort to try to regulate my husband’s crazy dinner guest arrangements. The more rules I made the more creative my husband became at throwing new challenges in my face. So every dinner party that my husband arranges, I say a prayer and hope for the best.
O! I forgot to tell you about the time when my husband told me about the dinner party days ahead, which I greatly appreciated. After I finished cooking all the food and making all preparations he informed me that he forgot to invite the people he was planning to invite. But, this post is already too long.
Sometimes people send me their own stories. This one in particular made me happy. From Janet who is originally from Boston, US:
Our first dinner party, shortly after we were married, was when we decided that inviting people for breakfast was more fun. We were three couples, and after a late dinner went out for a walk by the beach, three city blocks from our apartment. As we returned to the house, I realized that I’d left the keys on the desk in the entry hall. Ooops. Smallest friend tried to climb in through a window. No luck. So we all squished into one friend’s car and drove to my mother, in the next town, to get the spare key from her. My mother was unflappable. (It is now 2:00 a.m.) She sat us all down in her kitchen and showed off some of my sister’s artwork, gave us cold drinks, and sent us on our way with the spare key before going back to bed. I’m not sure if my dad slept through this, or just didn’t want to get involved. We returned to our place and went for another walk along the beach (it was now dawn and absolutely beautiful) before heading back to the apartment. On the way we went into a local bakery and got fresh bread. Then we made a giant omelet, put up a pot of coffee, and set the table with cheeses and sliced vegetables. We had lots of laughs, and it was much less stress than dinner party. From then until we had children, we preferred ‘breakfast parties’: “come after dinner, and we’ll party until breakfast”. Now that we have adult children who have moved away we could probably do that again, except that most of our friends are grandparents and not up to late night all-night parties… but I suppose there’s something to be said for buffet brunch… maybe we’ll have to try that?