Shall we retire to the parlor for a snifter and a bit of…Wii?

Here is what I learned at the dinner party I organized for four of my husband’s colleagues and their wives/girlfriends (in a world moving at the speed of light, the truth-value of this lesson probably expired several nanoseconds prior to my apprehension):

Forget charades, forget fictionary, forget one-card-on-your-forehead-no-peek poker. Forget conversation, forget watching a movie on DVD, forget rocking out to the latest hip-hop samba rumba. Forget them now –forget them all: pretend that you were merely faking fun. Why? Because at some point during the last three days the times have a-changed, and all of these after-dinner entertainments have quantumed into the pissoire of passé. Now’s sophisticated, worldly dinner guest demands nothing less than hi-tech amusement, and if you can’t provide it, she’ll dam well quantum off to a hostess that can.

Yup, forget the baked quail-caked schmail: dinner for dinner’s sake is soooooo yesterday. Now’s dinner parties aren’t about food they’re about X-Boxes, GameCubes, and Wiis: they’re about practicing in case you need to commit a Grand Theft Auto; they’re about maneuvering Super Mario so he doesn’t stumble off the edge of his cartoon; they’re about adrenaline-spiking competition on virtual greens. In short, the conviviality of dinner parties has degenerated into combat in the living room, and Emily Post’s dictum of 1922 to “play for the sake of playing rather than to win” can profitably be updated for 2007 to “play to kill, or eat shit and die pig”.

And so it was at our dinner party last night. Not that I had planned it that way. Silly me – I was worried about the food, the wine, the centerpiece, about having read and duly reflected on the latest political opinion pieces in Le Monde, Il Corriere della Sera, the Guardian, the NY Times so that I’d be a satisfying conversational partner. Silly fucking me. If I’d have been watching instead of worrying, I might actually have realized that something decidedly unconvivial was about to go down. There were certainly indicators. Shortly before dinner, Ale and our guests inexplicably coagulated into a tight, gooey mass in front of the flat-screen and let out a huzzah that curdled the cats. Curdled cat is hard to miss, but somehow I missed it. And then there was the sudden manifestation of nine personalized Wii remotes on the coffee table – and not a kid to be seen. I missed this, too.

In fact, I was still clueless when we sat down to dine. I couldn’t figure out why everybody was so famished, why they seemed so intent on clocking our lovely, three-course meal in less than 30. Initially, I interpreted their gorging as a testament to my superior culinary skills, and I felt flattered – deeply, gratefully flattered. The baked quail in champagne was, indeed, an inspired choice; the texture of the braised lettuces was truly perfectly crunchy-soft; the… But then I began to wonder: how could any of them actually taste anything at those chewing speeds? If they’d have been driving instead of chewing, their licenses would have been revoked and they’d have been hauled in on charges of recklessness… By the time I finally realized what was happening, my husband and guests had made their way to the living room and were teeing-off. Too late for a temper-tantrum.

So, dinner lasted roughly 30 minutes, from 8:30 to about 9:00 p.m. Wii, on the other hand, lasted more than five hours, until about 2:30 a.m. Bottom line: I am now the proud owner of a personalized Wii remote and am listed at the “pro” level in bowling. While it is often true that if you can’t beat them you should try to anyway, in this case joining them proved more enjoyable. And winning a couple of hefty bets on a turkey of lucky strikes made the joining even sweeter.


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