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(Not) Dressing for Dinner

Maybe it’s because I’m a bad cook, but I’ve always believed the most important part of hosting a successful dinner party is the right group of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re serving hot dogs or prime rib, if the chemistry isn’t right between the guests, a party can go south in no time.

Of all the dinner parties, I’ve gone to in my life; almost all of them have had the perfect balance of people and food and alcohol, a handful have been awkward, and one in particular goes down in the history books in a category all it’s own.

It was the summer of 2004; I had just turned 40 and was celebrating every chance I had. We had been invited to stay with some friends at their vacation home in Saugatuck. For those of you that don’t know Saugatuck, picture Provincetown without the steroids. It’s a small town on Michigan’s southwest coast that started out as an artist’s retreat and eventually grew into a haven for eccentric, liberal and open-minded people. Only two hours from Chicago and Detroit, it has great restaurants, sandy beaches a lot of shopping and is home to the largest gay resort in the Midwest. Needless to say, it doesn’t get much better if you’re looking for a good time. There’s also something about Saugatuck that makes you loose your inhibitions (or maybe it’s the alcohol, which I’m quite certain is in the water system).

Anyway, on this particular day, Anthony and I, along with our hosts, Roger and Paul were invited to a dinner party at another friends house, Paul and Bill. It had been a long day of partying; Bloody Mary’s at breakfast, a clothing optional pool-volleyball game and a boat ride on Lake Michigan, so by the time dinner came, we were pretty tired. I LOVE naps, but I have a rule; no napping after cocktails. I usually don’t wake up, and if I do, I’m groggy and in a bad mood so it’s better to keep drinking until I pass out. My no nap rule applies for Anthony too, only he doesn’t realize it. “I think I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes”, Anthony announced about an hour before we needed to leave. I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t, “I’ll be fine, just wake me up in a half an hour”, he said as he made his way to the bedroom. And that was the last thing I heard him say until the morning, he was out!

I, on the other hand was in rare form and ready to play.

The moment I walked into this particular dinner party I knew it was going to be an exceptionally fun night. All the right people (except Anthony) were there, the weather was perfect, the music was right and the mood was celebratory. It was like going to your first party in High School without parents being home. Everyone was in great spirits; we felt young, energetic and decadent. The only thing missing were the chaperones…

After socializing and downing more cocktails, it was time to sit down for dinner. Since the weather was so exceptional, Bill and Paul served dinner on their beautiful outdoor patio. I can’t remember what they prepared, but I do remember that it was delicious and messy. It was so messy in fact that Paul was wearing an apron at the table. I’m a messy eater as it is and the fact that I wore white shorts made it certain that I would drop something on myself. With each bite I took of our first course, I carefully leaned over my plate and wiped my mouth with the napkin that was carefully tucked into the collar of my shirt. “I wish we could eat naked”, I said, “it would make it so much easier”. A few minutes passed and it was time for the second course. Paul stood up to clear the plates and as he passed by each of us, one by one we let out a dramatic gay gasp. You see, Paul was still wearing his apron, but that was all he was wearing; somehow, without anyone noticing he managed to take off all his clothes. “It’s your birthday month Jeff, so I’m granting your wish”; he said “we can all eat naked”, then he confidently disappeared into the house. Now, the thing with mixing alcohol and my “anything but shy” group of friends is that you never know what will happen, and tonight was proof of that. After the initial shock of Paul’s nakedness wore off we naturally did what any other mature group of adult men would do, we got naked too.

And I have to say, apart from the fear of dropping hot food on Mr. Wiggly, it was truly liberating. When you attend a naked dinner party, all the thought and effort that goes into picking just the right outfit out that doesn’t make you look fat doesn’t matter. You don’t have to worry whether someone will be wearing the same outfit (because everyone would be). And, just think of all the money you’d save by not having to go to the dry cleaners.

It was quite a bonding experience too. There’s really nothing like sharing stories over a good Cabernet, while sitting next to your best friend wearing nothing but a wristwatch. The only awkwardness was at the end of the meal when we had to get up from the table. The weather had turned a little chilly and we all had shrinkage worries. Thank God, my friend Emmanuel (not his real name and since I don’t know any Emmanuel’s I know I’d be safe using the name) got up first. Emmanuel is the life of the party, exudes confidence and loves a good time, but by his own admission, his Mr. Wiggly is a midget. So after seeing (or not seeing) Emmanuel in his full birthday suit, we all felt better about clearing the table.

After we finished the dishes and we decided it was time to get dressed, another friend named Paul (for those of you keeping track, that’s three Paul’s) announced that he was going to change into something more comfortable-whatever more comfortable than naked was. As the rest of us were putting our shorts, shirts, socks and shoes back on, Paul was in the other room alone, giggling.

“This is going to be good”, we’re talking about a man who once tried on a woman’s sundress in a country store and asked the cashier if it made him look fat.

 I don’t know what was more shocking; Paul #2 being the first one naked or Paul #3 coming out of the bedroom wearing what his version of “more comfortable was; a full-length white wedding gown.

Like the rest of us, Paul loves attention, and one way to get it was to not only wear the dress, but to make sure the entire city of Saugatuck saw him in it. So, without hesitation, he jumped on a moped and whisked off with the rest of us running after him like frantic bridesmaids. He cruised down the main street waving at stunned passerby’s as we paraded behind him. Every few blocks, when he noticed a house party, he’d stop just long enough to give the surprised guests a story to tell. “Here comes the bride”, he sang as he twirled up to their doors. “Don’t you want to kiss the bride?” Then he’d drive off.

 I have to admit, usually things like this make me uncomfortable, but I was having fun. I mean can you imagine what it was like to one minute be serving Strawberry Shortcake to your guests, when suddenly a bearded stranger in a bridal gown crashes your party, singing wedding songs with four of his closest close behind attempting harmony?

After a few more stops, we decided to call it a night. The events of the day were finally taking its toll and we were all exhausted.

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to fall asleep, so I quietly crawled into bed where Anthony asked, “Is it time to go to the party yet?”






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