FD and I have a few friends, what you might call a little micro-system, a social group in social science language. The guys meet once a week, the women like each other, and when one of our kids gets married, everyone chips in and helps out. Tonight someone drops off paper goods for a dinner party to be given in my home for a couple of newlyweds.
The guy at the doorstep is shlepping in the soda, showing off the paper goods. His spouse is out of town so he's doing the shopping, or she certainly would. We have roles in this particular club.
I glance at the offerings, raise an eyebrow, but don't say anything, smile, thank him. I'm thinking, There are no dinner plates. But hey! Maybe I just didn't see them. They must be in the bottom of the bag.
But no. So as FD seasons chicken in the kitchen, a guy thing, he tells me, I'm setting the tables. Finally unable to contain myself, I cry out:
"There's no way people can eat dinner on a lunch plate!"
FD doesn't quite get my meaning, but when I show him the eight-inchers, he reluctantly agrees. He shrugs me that je ne sais pas or Whatcha' gonna' do look. It is 11 pm, there is no time to buy plates. I'll be leaving on a jet plane, won't be at this party, have to get out of town.
"I'm using china," I tell him. "Sorry to disappoint anyone. If I were going to be here, there would have been no paper plates, no way. Not here."
He shouts from the kitchen. "Forget it! This is a party where we throw everything in the garbage at the end, wrap it up, throw it out. No dishes. Please."
I proceed to ignore him, to set the table with an assortment of nice plates, not our best stuff, but nice. I use the plastic lunch plates our friend brought us as chargers for the soup.
Then I see the plastic cups. "We can't use these."
The cups are about six inches high and will tip with a glance or the first ounce of soda to hit off-center.
"We're going with glass," I tell him, "not crystal, but glass. Wouldn't want to upset anyone." Silence from the kitchen.
The napkins are fine, and they're recyclable. I love our friend's choice of napkins and there are enough to go around, which at first doesn't seem possible. But they need reinforcement, seem lonely, so we add a second, this one white, tucked inside the first, for effect.
Now. Do we use the Sam's Club plastic forks and knives? I have service for twenty-six, for sure, in silver-plate or even stainless. It doesn't all match, the silver-plate, but so what? At least when you cut your meat, the fork doesn't break. The knife works as a knife, not a challenge.
He's asking Do we have any oregano?
I tell him to go outside and pick some fresh basil, he planted it. I share the difficulty I am having with the plastic-ware. Exasperated, he gives in. "Whatever you want! You're the boss. I'm just going to tell them, it's your house."
I won't be around to empty the dishwasher, to sort the silverware, so it's one for the weak side.
"We're going with the plastic. To show respect. But everyone gets two forks, and we'll write a note, A third fork/knife is an option if you break either or both of these."
He smiles, tries to explain to me that most guys, at least the guys he knows, if they find themselves making a dinner party for a bride and groom, are going to be totally lost at table setting.
"You can't help it, dear. You're dudes."
FD does not know that I know this word. He laughs the laugh of surprised. I respond to this.
"A dude can't be expected to buy stuff for a party and not get something wrong. It's how dudes are. They're just . . ." and I can't think of another word, want to say clueless, thick, but these don't apply at all to our friend who is sensitive, smart, with it. The shopper. "You're just dudes, is all."
"When did you learn this word? Have you even seen the commercial?" He speaks of a Pepsi commercial, and no, I have not seen it.
I reveal that years ago a patient insisted that his biggest problem was his dudeness. He needed me to take the guy in there, the male in his head, and cure the blindness, help him do/say the right things in relationships.
"And could you do that?" FD is fascinated.
"Yes," I admit, a little embarrassed.
The only thing I forgot to tell him, I confess to FD later, is that you start . . . with the tablecloths.
P.S. The tablecloths were fine, truth be known, matched the napkins. Who would have thought brown would be just right? A dude, obviously.