The antiquated days of attending the boss' party, dinner, or 4th of July BBQ have slipped away from us. I can't quite put my finger on when it happened or why, but perhaps technology has brought us here. So many of us spend all day in front of our computers monitoring facebook updates, tweets, RSS feeds, downloading our favorite podcasts that by the time we get home at the end of the day the last thing we want to do is check our personal email or go hang out with our boss after work. Is the mandatory corporate social function a thing of the past, or are we in a short reprieve?
When the boss throws a party and invites all the office staff, everyone knows it's an event not to be missed. The personal dinner party are where promotions and raises are won and lost. This is how they differ from the traditional corporate holiday party, where the best you can hope for is to remember some of it the next morning.
The art of planning, inviting, decorating, catering, and cleaning up after a party in your own home may no longer be appealing or accessible to the modern family unit. In the past, kids were dragged out to play with the co-worker's kids and shoved together at the small table while the adults tried to not talk about work.
I remember as a child getting to swim in the boss' pool. It was a beautiful one with a rock water fall and a hot tub. I don't know if my dad got anything out of that 4th of July afternoon, but I sure enjoyed it.
If I was asked to attend a dinner party at my boss' home, I would try to find an excuse not to go. Maybe this was always the case, but today it seems more straightforward to be hopping on a plane, or having other family commitments. Perhaps my resistance to spending an evening at my boss' house is that I know that he has a pool and I don't.
Status is a funny thing. If we don't plan on hosting dinner parties at the house, why are we still building and buying big houses with large living and dining rooms? Some of the best dinner parties I've attended were at a peer's house where we sat elbow to elbow well above what the Fire Marshall would tolerate.
At these social events, people of different work and social lives were brought together and the discussions ranged from the mundane topics of politics and soccer, to m-theory, and existentialism. Since we did not work together office politics was "off the table" as far as conversation went.
But despite these few moments of sheer wonderment, I lament that fact that so many of us have lost the art of the dinner party altogether. If you asked me for a good caterer I'd refer you to Angie's list. If I needed to get a place setting for 60 I might get some inexpensive Chinette plates from costco. The tips and tricks to hosting seem to be lost on me.
Key Innovations & Timeline
I hate to think that the current state of party-less ness is permanent. I'd prefer to think that the current high-level of plugged in is temporarily suppressing our innate need for employees to come look at our homes. As we adjust to the constant stream of chatter on facebook and updates from our co-workers, we should again settle into the old routine of needing to demand their evening time as well.
Dinner parties and afternoon BBQs are a great way to discuss the important parts of work. Those burning questions that just have to be asked. And the nagging situations which no one wants to mention, always seem to find a mouthpiece after the third round of wine or beer has hit the table.
So this is my plea to bring back the dinner party. The 4th of July just isn't the same without it.