I F— Up Another Dinner Party

I don’t fully understand why I reached for a 3-by-5 card from a nearby drawer, during a dinner my wife and I had for an old friend, Friday night, and scratched down a few notes at the table about the subjects we hadn’t covered in the conversation I still wanted to get to. My wife was upset with me later, for speechmaking and not being in the flow of the conversation. I used to be able to think that our difference over this type of behavior was cultural, having to do with my being Jewish (unacculturated) and my wife a WASP (well-bred), but whatever the reason it feels like I’ve hit bottom on this, it’s not working, and I better learn how to socialize (at 50—oy). My wife has been talking to me about this for years, but it’s a sad truth about marriage that sometimes it takes an outsider to say something to make the light go on. My editor commented last week, when I was visiting him, that I had an adolescent relationship with my parents. For the next ten minutes we talked about other stuff and I didn’t hear what he was saying, thinking about his comment, and I returned to it, and he elaborated somewhat. He’s intuitive and oracular; you take what glints you get and study them later. I think that really got to me, I thought, he’s right. We have another dinner party tonight, and I asked my wife, What is the standard? She said, “Be natural, but not make anyone feel uncomfortable.” I’ll let you know how I do.

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