Saturday, June 8, 2013

These progressive dinners ain't no place for sissies

Well, Cookie and Husband are recovering from last night's neighborhood progressive dinner.

No "Committee of the Middle of the Street" like we had in the old neighborhood, during which the problems of the world are solved for one and all.

No.  These people "neighbor" only by invitation, and only when it involves business, or drinking a glass (or twelve) of wine.

Baltimore is a funny place.  People are nice to you, but they draw a line in the sand and then they keep you on the other side of it.  Someone told us "It's not you. It's a southern thing."  Then we told that to someone else and they laughed in our face.  "You're not in the South!  No, it's an East coast thing!"

The East coast person said "Give it time.  They're just slow to warm."

The Southern person said "There's nothing you can do.  They'll never warm to you because you're not one of them."

Whatever it is, we're sick of it.

In Ohio, if a neighbor says "what are you guys doing Saturday night" its a precursor to an invitation to play cards, go out to dinner or just hang out.

Not here. Here there is a line in the sand.

"What are you guys doing Saturday night" is a question, and nothing more.  Even if you ask them if they want to get together at your house the answer is usually "Oh, we can't.  We have plans."

Like their children's lives, the people around here like structured fun.  Spontaneity is only something that they think they have within themselves.  No, the adults here neighbor when there is a structure to do so, or as I have come to call them, "play dates" for adults.  And the Progressive Dinner is a form of a play date where neighbors mingle.

In Ohio, a progressive dinner means that ten or twelve households on a street plan the event. The idea is that by moving people house to house the for each course, that the hosts need only focus on a single specialty.  Someone hosts cocktails and finger foods.  Someone hosts soup and salad and more cocktails.  Someone hosts the main course and the wine. Someone hosts the dessert.

Not here - here there is a line in the sand.

Here the progressive dinner includes 130 houses, and everyone is invited. Only about 20% attend.  The hosts don't cook - instead YOU, meaning you the guest, cater the event.

"Like a pot luck?" I asked.

"No," the organizer said as she mentally erased some my advancement points in her head.  "This isn't a pot luck like they have in your churches," (in "my" churches?) "it's a progressive dinner."

The rules here are that the hosts tell you what to bring based on your address, or what side of the street you live on.   So people who live over there - you bring a finger food.  If you live on the even side of this street, make a salad. Odd numbers? Bring a main course.  And that the cul de sac? You provide desserts.  All the food is delivered to the host house before the event.  And if you want boozey boozey, or wine?  BYOB.

THEN THERE are the cliques.  The idea behind a neighbor event, as I was raised to believe is to spend time with everyone.

Not here - that line in the sand again.

HERE you smile at everyone, but hang out with your school pals.  So the private school people hang with the  people they went to private school with.  Public school people, they hang with the people they went to school with.  Academics?  Together.  And us interlopers who moved her after formative years?  We stumble over each others interests trying to find commonality.   And the general rule for all rules is "don't break into someone elses group."

And then there are the two gay guys who live in the manor house that once owned the land that all of our houses are built upon.  They get a free pass to any group.  Because they live in the manor house and are fabulous.

Well, not really.

One is rocket scientist - seriously, he's a divisional director at Goddard.  And the other one?  "I'm a leading national authority on authorities."


"I help networks and news shows find the right authorities for their shows, and I work with leading authorities to keep their TV-Q up and in front of producers of the leading TV News programs."


And both of them are terribly pretentious.  The rocket scientist is this nelly thing who loves holding court with older women and thrills them ("Why, yes!  There is a big shiny red button, but it's Top Secret!  How did you girls know about that button?") with his stories.  And the Authority?  He gives the room the same advice that he gives to authorities before they go on TV.  "For Face the Nation?  No, I told the Governor. Ignore the nation. More like Face the Host.  Don't look at the people back home because it upsets them. Just look at the host."

Yup, they get fawned over.

And the husband and I?  We took our desert, and then we took it back home as no one ate any of it.

I am hoping that over time I don't turn into these people, because they are not who we are.  Still, I'm feeling a bit as if we are being hazed, and after last night, I am feeling a bit hazy.

Perhaps its time for a bit of the hair of the dog that bit me, and then I'll take the boys for a walk so they can crap all over the front yard of the Authority on Authorities and he can become a bit of an authority on something else.


  1. If it's any consolation, you've got me and Norma.

    1. I have you all, and I am grateful.

      Don't fret about me. I don't give up so fast and I vow to wear them down.

  2. Coastal people are apparently like that. There's this thing I heard about in Seattle called the "Seattle Freeze." Midwesterners are just a different breed altogether. Do you still speak with the "Committee?" I miss hearing about them, and the intracommunity politics/intrigue!

    1. I'll check in with them to we what is what when we go back in August.

  3. Oh, dear. Perhaps next time the neighbourhood schedule one of these nightmares you could say "Thank you, but I'm washing my hair that evening."
    Or just hide behind the sofa when they come knocking?

  4. Shurely there are more interesting people in Baltimore. Perhaps the arty crowd? Isn't John Waters from that neck of the woods??

    1. Waters loves on amore uppity neighborhood than we do!

  5. This is so awful to read I just don't know what to say. Obviously I only know you from what you write here, but what you write paints a picture of wit, intelligence and kindness. How could anyone not simply love you and Husband?!? Obviously you are both too good for your neighborhood, but that is cold comfort when confronted with such asshats.

    And I have to ask, how on earth did you not giggle when you were told he was an authority on authorities?!?

    I can assure you, if you are ever in the Asbury Park area, you would receive a warm and enthusiastic welcome. We know quality when we see it. :)