How To Survive A Terrible Group Dinner

Will the group dinner birthday ever go extinct? 

By Alida Nugent

There are some words you never want to hear. Guacamole is extra. I’m canceling Netflix so find a new password. Macklemore. But amongst the worst of them? Are you free Friday? I’d like to have a group dinner to celebrate my birthday.

Wonderful. Why don’t you just chuck me in a river and let me die in peace, like Ophelia. First of all---how dare you? I never want to go to your birthday parties in the first place. I like you. I don’t like your coworkers. Why would I want to drink vodka with your coworkers? The only thing I know about them is that they have coffee breath and sometimes they send passive-aggressive emails. 

Well, it turns out, I prefer to drink with your coworkers if the alternative is having to share a side of guacamole with your giant slug of a project manager, double-dipping his chips in it like he is Henry VIII, world at his fat little fingertips. When you bring food I have to pay for and armless seats into a birthday party, you have ruined it for everyone. Group dinners are an egregious sin of normal human interaction. You never get what you pay for. If I wanted to eat mildly spiced food in mass quantities I’d go on a cruise. But -- you have to go. Otherwise your friends get mad and accuse you of never going to their birthday parties, which is the second most awful thing you can do to a pal, next to a pregnancy pact with one of their enemies.

How will we survive these kinds of get-togethers? I’m not emotionally equipped for a group dinner. I’m not good at small talk, I’m the kind of nosy little sea witch who loves to keep track of how much everyone is drinking, and I hate most people I do not already know. If you are with me on this, I have a few tips to keep your cool during one of the most inevitable and awful nights of your whole life:

1. . Get A Good Seat

Do not sit next to your friend’s cousin who happens to be in town. Do not sit next to somebody who has mentioned the word Paleo. Sit next to a friend, somebody with very dark lipstick, or by yourself in the bathroom. If you get a bad seat, you are going to be stuck hearing about caveman diets or politics or sports or music or regular things that people talk about that I hate. In fact, nobody should sit next to me, because I am a bad seat.

2. . Talk About The Right Things

The things on my mind right now: how awful Jared Leto is to get so deeply into his Suicide Squad character that he sent Viola Davis a dead pig, how stupid that movie will be, the Selena x MAC collection, your Real Housewife tagline, what Ariana Grande is doing at the moment, and if you were a dog, what celebrity would you want to live with. These are the things I want to talk about at a group dinner. Not the food, or how much salsa comes in the salsa jar, or how spicy the salsa is, or anything that I’m not interested in. Lead the conversation. Come with facts: did you know Bill Pullman doesn’t have a sense of smell?

3. . Get The Group Photo Immediately

Just grab the birthday boy’s iPhone out of his hands, graciously give it to a waiter, and tell him to take a picture. I do not want to hear about the picture all night. I do not want to hear six different people whisper “there’s the waiter, should we ask?!” Get it over with. Move on. Do not ask to see it, because I know you’ll look bad and I’m the dope who wants to take another one until I look good, which I never do. 

4. . Hold Onto Your Simple Math Skills

When the check comes, everybody is going to lose their ability to add and multiply. For example, Jeff had 4 drinks at 8 dollars each. He had three steak tacos. He went at a plate of nachos like the nacho mill finally exploded and all the nachos were dead. And he is going to A Beautiful Mind his way into believing that all of this equals about 25 dollars worth of food. He will ask for change. Bite him with your mouth if he asks again. And then go forth with your calculator-like knowledge, or even show him the one that phones come with sometimes! Don’t be afraid of being good at math—look where it got Will Hunting.

5. . Bring Cash And Change

Forget credit cards. You can’t pay the interest on them anyway. Really shock people by pulling a few twenties, a five, and heck, even some one dollar bills out of your wallet. Wave it around like Criss Angel might. Amaze those around you with your ability to make your own change, and pay the correct amount and move on with your life. Also: include a good tip in that bundle of bills.

6. . Eat And Drink To Your Heart's Content

Oh, who am I kidding? You’re never going to pay exactly what you owe at a group dinner. You’re going to pay a lot more than that, in both money and boring conversations. So just drink wine until you’re jolly enough to not care about it. Get so drunk you begin to think people’s feelings about politics are almost nuanced and intelligent. Live, Laugh, Love, Eat So Many Tacos your pants don’t fit anymore. Leave this mortal plane.

7. . Come Up With An Excuse As To Why You Can't Come Next Year

Tell the host you had a great time, but you plan on staying away from any events with more than three people attending from now on. After all, group mentality is the worst. Remember that short story The Lottery? Where they throw rocks at someone to death? That is literally a story of group mentality, and basically group dinners. So you're gonna get out while you can.

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