Someone said that modern friendships are basically a revolving “Hey, great to see you, let’s grab dinner soon.” And that back-and-forth continues until one of you dies.
I think we’re all guilty of it. And gay D.C. more or less encourages it. Life is fast; we’re busy. And this headphones-in, connected culture more or less reinforces this. So what’s there to do? Last year, I joined my friend James’s D.C. Gay Dinner Club, something he conceived of a couple of years back while having friends over for a spontaneous dinner gathering. They all came to the realization that it was affording more and better conversation than any bar could. The concept itself is simple enough, like dinner roulette — you sign up for six dinners, host one, and no one knows who is who until a day or two before.
This season I’ve been to four dinners so far. Four delightful meals, like my friend Rini who cooked family recipes from Puerto Rico. Enough wine flowed at Jocko’s dinner party, his box of elaborate robes and caftans came out. Some have place cards and crystal stemware, other times I’ve crowded around coffee tables. There’s no pretense. Plus, these guys can really cook. This seems to be a lost art for a lot of us urban dwellers — the art of the cocktail or dinner party. Maybe we are too busy, our schedules too hectic, our apartments too small. But there’s a reason our parents and grandparents threw these. You get to know people in a setting that makes it easy to do so.
Of all the cities I’ve lived in and visited, D.C. seems to be one of the best at conscious efforts at community building. There really seems to be something for just about everyone, any taste or preference. Stonewall this or that, countless associations and clubs. But few it seems that aren’t bar centric. Don’t get me wrong, there’s often copious amounts of wine consumed at Gay Dinner Club. But that just makes everyone more interesting. Certainly makes me funnier and gets people a little more comfortable. And though politically you’ll probably find yourself in agreement with most everyone at dinner club, it is still interesting to hear the fresh perspective that age, region, and various professions and educations can bring.
For me, as someone who is transitioning out of the bar scene, it’s nice to have gay events that are home-based. Looking at the gay person’s home, what books they have on their shelves, what music they have playing, what they choose to have on their walls, all of this affords a certain intimacy that you’ll never achieve with even the longest of conversations at the end of a bar. Just like our rooms as kids, these are the very first spaces we set up as our own queer spaces, and just like our rooms then, our homes and apartments now are representations of us and how we see ourselves in a larger gay world.
When we invite people into these places, what do we ask of them? To share something of themselves as well? What is real friendship based on anyway? Shared affinity and intimacy seems to be the foundation. Perfect strangers or even sitting down with someone you may have known for years, but finally sitting down with them, breaking bread but not really because we still fear carbs, and listening to them talk about their lives. Talking frankly, over wine and a well-prepared dinner, about gay issues and non-gay issues – relationships, jobs, sex, health. All the while sharing personal experiences. It’s helpful.
And frankly, it’s refreshing.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.