In Mad Men Season 2's "A Night to Remember," Betty has spent not just the day, but weeks, preparing the house and the menu for a dinner party. With a room full of impeccably-dressed people standing around the impeccably-dressed table, Betty announces that they are "going to take a little trip around the world," before introducing the courses. Her smile when she reaches the end of her script--"or a frosted glass of beer from Holland"--indicates that she's pulled it off. But it's all over in ten seconds, when Duck explains Don's supermarket experiment designed to show Heineken that women will buy the upscale beer. Later that night Betty confronts Don about an affair.
I think this is why we're so resistant to dinner parties now. We don't want to be Betty. We don't want to freak out when there aren't an even number of people at the table. We don't want to feel like the menu is a test of our self-worth. We don't want to be shackled to the image of the stay-at-home mother who alone shoulders cooking, cleaning, and childrearing. We don't want dinner to be a metaphor for any other problems going on in our lives.
My answer to this problem has been to not have dinner parties.
That's the wrong answer. As a relatively new parent in a totally new town, dinner parties are a great way for adults and kids to make new friends. The Kitchn has an inspirational series on Crappy Dinner Parties. No housework, no grocery shopping. Just come as you are and work with what you've got. The photos that accompany the series are anything but crappy. Fresh flowers? Garnishes? Those are harbingers of a Don-and-Betty blow out.
So skip the flowers, the garnishes, and the cooking. Invite some friends over and tell them to bring some bread. Put out whatever pantry items you've got: cheese, olives, little crunchy things. Eat bread. Play with the kids. Make new friends. That's easy weekday entertaining.