Australia

The morning-after text: it's all in the punctuation.

Opinion

November 27, 2020 — 11.45pm

It’s an old Broadway tradition: after opening night of a new show, the cast and crew go to a local bar, stay up all night, then read the morning newspaper reviews. A good review means the show is a success and the director goes home with the lead actor. A bad review means the show is a failure and the director goes home with the assistant stage manager. One review leads to triumph, the other to a sad, disappointing flop.

And there’s a very similar dinner party tradition: at the end of a dinner party, the hosts go to their bedroom, sleep all night, then read the morning text reviews. A “Great catching up! Had a blast!” means the party was a success, while a “Great catching up. Had a blast” means the party was a failure. It’s all about punctuation. Subtle, but it’s there.

The morning-after text can indicate the success or otherwise of the modern dinner party.

The morning-after text can indicate the success or otherwise of the modern dinner party.Credit:Shutterstock

The "morning-after text" is an essential feature of modern dinner-partying, which is why I was devastated last week when we had a couple of friends round for dinner – our first dinner party in months – and we woke up the next morning to ... no text. Not even a lip-smacking emoji. Not even a thumbs up. Not even a thank you email, which is a ridiculously old-fashioned form of post-party-texting from the 20th century, but still acceptable in more formal social circles.

And it made no sense because we’d delivered a truly text-worthy night. The house looked nice and clean: we’d been cleaning for eight months solid – that alone deserves praise. The food was pretty good: I made an authentic green Thai chicken curry, though I added too much chilli paste so it became an authentic red Thai chicken curry, then I let it sit too long and it mottled into an authentic purple Thai chicken curry. But still, it tasted Thai-ish.

The dinner party chatter was outstanding. I hadn’t done any dinner-partying for ages, so I made sure I preplanned some talking points. Did a great riff on how the US is a failed experiment, which I stole from a Vanity Fair article that I didn't really understand, but still I sold it (it’s all about talking loud and sighing at the end of every sentence). And I did an interesting observational bit about the letter J that I’d been rehearsing for days: how there are so many J-names like Jordan, Jamie, Jerry, Jack, Jenny, Jane, but only a few J-words: all I could think of was jeep, jackal and jugs. Our friends were enthralled, I stretched it to about eight minutes, lots of J names to get through. Joaquin. Jaylani.

Jehoshophat.

The food was pretty good and the conversation was outstanding.

The food was pretty good and the conversation was outstanding.Credit:iStock

This dinner party was as lavish and entertaining as any Broadway show: there was mirth, music, and even mime. At one point I did my famous going-up-and-down-an-elevator-behind-the-kitchen-benchtop routine (the secret is a little “landing bump”. A lot of amateur kitchen-benchtop-elevator-mimers forget to do that. It makes all the diff). So our guests left looking happy and satisfied and mime-dazzled, but … no morning-after text.

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It confused me. I began doubting myself. Was the purple Thai curry a little too lavender? Did I overuse the word “compounded”? For some reason I got hooked on the word and couldn’t stop. Why did you keep saying it, Danny, why???? Or maybe our friends just weren’t dinner-party match-fit, exactly like us, and they’d forgotten that fundamental post-party rule. So I prompted them: I sent them a text that said “Great catching up! Had a blast!”, and they immediately texted back “Ha! Agreed. A blast!”

It was good enough. I guess we’re all just a bit out of practice.

Danny Katz is a Melbourne humourist.

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