No Business Please, We're Washingtonians


don't invite this guy to your dinner party

Would-be dinner party hosts who look to Washington Post writer Sally Quinn for guidance will find her latest column full of helpful advice for breeding sparkling chatter over the dinner table. But nowhere does she grapple with the problem of Washington's endless shop talk about itself—a topic that might more useful for a piece in D.C.'s paper of record. Instead, the column is about what Sally Quinn finds boring at dinner parties: business.

My two dinner partners (one of whom was not from Washington) spent the entire evening talking business to each other as if I didn't exist. I mean "business." Like stocks and bonds and mergers and acquisitions. This was not exactly my specialty.

Every time I tried to change the subject or ask a question, they simply dismissed me. By the end of the meal, I was catatonic with boredom. And probably a little tight since there was nothing to do but drink.

After dinner I was standing with a group when the out-of-towner came rushing over to me. "I just learned that you are Sally Quinn," he gushed. "I would love to talk to you."

"It's too late, Buster," I replied.

No one likes to be cut out of a dinner party conversation. But Quinn goes on to make the case that politics are OK at dinner (at least in moderation) because "most people watch or read the news." Most people have a 401(k) or other investments, too. But D.C. insider chat can be just as irrelevant and dull for the uninitiated as insider finance chatter, something Quinn barely acknowledges.

Sadly, casual disdain for markets and the people who keep them running is typical of Washington. Quinn urges gentle, considerate prodding to bring other specialists into the conversation, but never offers a tip for redeeming the business literate. If they won't talk about movies, she implies, don't invite 'em at all. Thanks to Quinn, the already-marginalized population of the financially savvy in the nation's capital just got pushed a little farther out of the loop—at the time when we need them the most.

This aside is nice, too: "I'll tell you what's a real killer: scientists."

No thanks to the City Paper's Erik Wemple, without whom I never would have read this particular column at all.

NEXT: Secret Police

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  1. Wow, that was painful to read. That column was like something my grandmother would have written, if anyone were dumb enough to give her a job.

  2. Sally is definitely anti-business. In fact, her column is a plot to put the Wash Post out of business. And it’s working.

  3. Katherine,

    Sally is a stupid hick. You can’t expect her to be able to engage in a wide ranging conversation.

  4. Anybody else here addicted to Squawk Box on CNBC? It’s like the SportsCenter of finance. (No. I don’t watch Mad Money. I have SOME standards.)

    1. I used to watch it every morning. But I changed jobs and its been years (like SportsCenter, for that matter). When I watch it anymore, its like “who are these people and what have they dont with Squawk Box? (just like SportsCenter, wow)

    2. Oh, c’mon! Mad Money was hilarious… Before people got hurt anyway.

  5. If the WaPo wants to save some money, I suggest they get rid of the style section first. I’m not sure anything in there really passes for news if this article is anything to go by.

  6. Nice article. So Sally Quinn has just admitted that she’s too goddamn stupid to add one teensy intelligent-sounding comment to a conversation about “stocks, bonds, mergers and acquisitions?”
    Talk about a cretin.

    1. It is also oddly sexist. Is Quinn saying a poor woman like herself can’t be expect to know about business stuff?

      1. Math is hard.

  7. You come to my dinner party, you better be prepared to talk about anything.
    Any. Fucking. Thing.
    She’s definitely off my guest list.

  8. Why would anybody in Washington give a shit about people who actually *do* and *make* things?

    That’s crazy.

  9. Some people dont like to discuss college football either. People are weird.

    1. I’m from Columbus, robc, so I’m going to pretend you didn’t just write that.

      1. Even in columbus I bet you run into weird oddballs who dont like discussing college football.

        Oh, and, just for you:

        1. Some people love to discuss college football for some reason. People are weird.

          1. Epi: Any. Fucking. Thing.
            I’ve got a red marker poised over my guest list. Don’t make me use it.

            1. If you’re going to talk about college football, you might as well use your red marker on my name, too.

            2. Can I discuss 41-14?

              1. You are dead to me now, Pro L.

                1. It gets worse–I used to be an employee of The Ohio State University. Even back then, I regularly mocked their inability to defeat teams from the South.

                2. Any? Fucking? Thing?

                3. Pay no attention to them, y’all have a winning streak in the Rose Bowl of 2.

                  In a generation.

            3. Does Ohio even have a football team? And are there actually colleges there, or just fields?

              1. Well, Ohio does have Cleveland, but some subjects are not fit for polite discussion in any context.

              2. Well, I think there’s a soccer team at Ohio State. Called the Semi-Poisonous Nuts or something arcane like that.

            4. I can feign interest in college football. I will also recognize the name of the colleges, most likely. Does that count?

            5. Actually, it would be weird for me to go, once, just once, to a party and *not* have to refrain from talking about politics.

              It just isn’t worth it when surrounded by dyed-in-the-womb left wingers, which is the usual case ’round here. I just about killed a dinner at my mother-in-law’s a few years ago, not towing the lion’s standard belief structure.

              1. Oh, yessss! Been there, done that.

                Politics is one topic I absolutely avoid in conversations with my family.

              2. Was it Tow the blue lion?

            6. Now see, I can discuss football while boring even people who are interested in football. I’ll bring up technical aspects of coaching, officiating, and the development of the game, with cross-code comparisons, and hardly ever mention an actual football player or even team.

              You guessed it: I’m a scientist. And I’m working on getting into a head offensive coaching position with children, where I can install my version of the sidesaddle T with fly series, and single-wing style plays snapped out to the deep backs.

              1. Quick, everybody! Get your crosses and stakes!

                Silver bullets and garlic may also be needed.

                1. Too bad the tree nesting goes only so deep. I couldn’t tell what that was a reply to. Is there something in the HTML that would say, or does the program just output it without leaving a trace?

                  1. Nah, just com-block depth5.

    2. That’s why all my dinner parties are with college football coaches.

      1. I’d punch that broad in the throat.



    3. Jock tock is absolutely the ultimate in boring conversation.

      OTOH, I’d like to see anyone try to get out of discussing football if Don Shula were present or business if Warren Buffet were present.

      1. …or prevarication if Barack Obama were president.

        1. Present, not president, dammit!

  10. It’s like the SportsCenter of finance.

    It beats the hell out of watching the “real” news. I like the little scrimmages between Santelli and Senior Fed Apologist Steve Leisman.

  11. “I just learned that you are Sally Quinn,” he gushed. “I would love to talk to you.”

    She should have talked to him; he might have offered her thirty five grand for her newspaper.

  12. Article has the wrong headline. It should read “Sally Quinn can take the fun out of dinner parties and conversations.”

  13. The essential thing for a host or a guest in terms of conversation is to take into consideration those around you. This is about kindness and respect. It is simply rude to deliberately talk about things that you know others around you won’t understand or be able to participate in. Everyone wants to leave a party feeling happy, appreciated and smart. Guests don’t feel smart if they are left out of the conversation. I try to honor all my guests by asking them about themselves and by showcasing them. I want everyone to shine.

    *begins construction of guillotine*

    1. It is simply rude to deliberately talk about things that you know others around you won’t understand or be able to participate in.

      So what do people talk about at Sally’s parties?

      1. They probably talk about Sally.

      2. Oh, you know, face lifts, bleached blonds, transmorgrification, famous Sallys, stuff like that.

        Pass the rum please.

      3. Anything colo-rectal.

    2. What she writes there just seems like good manners to me. There are ways to talk about business or science or pretty much anything that don’t exclude people who may not know the particular subject. Who’s the guillotine for?

      1. No, she’s complaining about her seating assignment and outing the hostess.

        Now that’s just mean.

  14. “I’ll tell you what’s a real killer: scientists.”

    Damn. Someone found out about my Beltway Deathray.

    1. Loved that one, Aresen.

    2. Can I borrow it for the weekend? Pleeeeeeeease?!

      1. OK. But you have to clean it and refill the tank before you return it.

  15. Business bad, politicians good. They save us from business.

    It’s sad people don’t understand the second largest part of their lives. Second only to government.

    1. Wait, I thought sleep was the second largest part of our lives?

  16. Newspaper column deadlines can be so cruel. Oh, and:

    “Everyone wants to leave a party feeling happy, appreciated and smart. Guests don’t feel smart if they are left out of the conversation.”

    Apart from the fact that I want to leave a party feeling drunk, I’m pretty sure everyone who leaves Sally’s house feels like a genius by comparison.

  17. The CIA should record a few of Sally’s dinner parties and loop them for the boys at Gitmo.

    I’d spill my guts in thirty seconds to make that inane nattering cease.

  18. I would rather be trapped at a dinner party with Paul Krugman than a college football fan.

    1. You can still talk about beards…and cats if you so wish.

    2. Me too…..I have no compelling desire to kill college football fans!

  19. I’ll tell you what’s a real killer: scientists. The only way you can handle them is to keep them away from each other at the table or get them to talk to the whole table about what they are working on. And then change the subject.

    Motherfuck you with a spiny honeylocust limb, you idiot twat. Science is interesting; your D.C. cuntery is not.

    1. Yeah, those damned scientists and engineers. What have they ever done for us?

      1. She doesn’t want to discuss top men? Yes. Top. Men.

        1. Men on top is so boring.

  20. I really hate all these bourgeois topics at the dinner table.

  21. Sally Quinn: defining dullness down.

  22. Many years ago I was at a dinner party at the home of one of the fabled Georgetown hostesses, Oatsie Charles.

    Namedropping someone named Oatsie is just about the most pretentious thing I have heard in my life.

    1. What is up withe WASPs and their doofey names? The publisher of the NYT is named Pinch and his dad was Punch. Even hillbillies and hood rats come up with better names that that.

      1. Hey, now, I’m a WASP. And my real name is Chaz “Dickie” Jameson IV.

        1. “His name is Blane? Oh! That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!”

      2. Well, Oatsie really was her name, apparently, but Punch and Pinch are nicknames. And as far as I know, I think the latter is an unflattering joke based on the former, so you wouldn’t want to use it in front of the guy it’s attached to.

  23. Sports conversations are fun, as they quickly devolve into grudges.

    Grudges are interesting.

  24. What a stupid cunt.

  25. You can still talk about beards.

    My mustache would so totally overpower Krugman’s faggy little chin-whiskers.

  26. “I just learned that you are Sally Quinn,” he gushed.

    Who? The medicine woman? I guess i can see wanting to talk to her, but I liked her better back when she was a bond girl.

  27. Last time I went to a dinner party it was all management consultants. None of them had read a fiction book in the past year. They had read lots of management theory books though. And were interested in aid to africa. And I got drunk. And became belligerent.

    1. management theory is fiction

    2. I don’t quite understand the whole concept of the genteel dinner party. Aren’t parties supposed to be, you know, fun?

      1. Some fucks enjoy that boring shit. It’s nice to eat and drink well, but the enforced smarminess is too much to take.

      2. There may be room for a middle ground between stuffy-with-assigned-seating and whatever barefoot hootenanny you engage in.

        Although, given the choice between the two, I just might choose the latter.

        1. Just as long as you show your tits. My male gaze needs fed, you know.

        2. Just make sure you show your tits. I have a male gaze, you know.

          1. Oh, fuck you, server.

            1. I like choice C) best.

          2. See, it wasn’t Sally’s ignorance of the topic being discussed that kept her down, it was that motherfucking male gaze.

            So, in sum: Male gaze + no shoes + no shirt = successful party.

            1. Frisbees filled with jello shots help, too.

      3. Don’t impose your idea of “fun” onto everyone else, Warty. Not everyone is into the yipping scene yet.

      4. If the party isn’t fun enough go to the bathroom and check the medicine cabinet for free narcotics. That’s how I spent the 1980s.

        1. Cough.. open cabinet door.. oooh! Cough…close cabinet door.

          No, Sally I’m good on the wine, as I just ate all your percocets. Ya know don’t wanna puke all over your beautiful tablescape.

          That would be rude.

  28. It’s a bummer for Sally when no one wants to talk about Sally.

    Apparently for her listening isn’t part of a conversation. It didn’t occur to her that she might have learned something about this obscure thing called ‘business’ by shutting her yap and tuning in.

    Shooting fish in a barrel, I guess.

    1. Hey, when E.F. Hutton talks….

  29. Come on without.
    Come on within.
    You’ve not seen nothin’ like the mighty Quinn.

    1. It had to be done.

      But it is not complete without, ‘did you know that the Mighty Quinn is cocaine?’

      1. Sounding a bit too much like the bored late eighties Johnny Carson: “I did not know that.”

        Thank you for that factoid. After 40 years, that stupid song finally makes sense.

        Hey wait a minute! Do you think “Mr. Tamborine Man” is not about a percussionist?

  30. What is worse than a Quin in conversation is the type of person who equates politics with Kennedy family trivia. You know, American royalty, and all of that shit. Probably, but not necessarily female with a home mailed subscription to People magazine. If you have had the good fortune of never meeting someone like that, there is a chick on the TMZ show who fits the description, and man is she one ugly and annoying bitch.

    I like Harvey, though.

    1. Harvey’s a puca.

  31. My mustache would so totally overpower Krugman’s faggy little chin-whiskers.

    As we have already established here on many occasions, Krugman possesses but a paltry facsimile of the True Beard. A mere facial merkin, if you will.

  32. My last dinner party was all hospital people, over to watch the Cowboy game. The women staked out all the good seats, and spent the evening yelling at the TV and talking football, as far as I could tell. The men talked about politics, the hospital, hunting, cars, the oil bidness, and real estate.

    If you were bored by the conversation you were in, you topped off your drink and wandered off to join another one.

    I don’t throw dinner parties where guests are nailed to a chair. Its all buffet style, with several places to sit and an undefined number of places to stand.

    1. Not in DC; not at the Sally Quinn level.

      They have seating charts. Over which they expend enormous amounts of time and energy scrutinizing and re-scrutinizing, to make sure you don’t seat to people who hate each other, usually high society women, next to one another. I kid you not.

      1. Yeah, it’s all very genteel and proper and I hated the versions they inflicted on me as a child. There’s no way in hell I would go to one as an adult. I got barbecue, beer and booze, and if you can’t find a conversation that interests you, maybe you’re in the wrong house, twunty.

  33. My two dinner partners (one of whom was not from Washington) spent the entire evening talking business to each other as if I didn’t exist.

    “Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be IGNORED!”

  34. Sally Quinn is not of the same species as I. I can only regard her in other than contempt by considering her as culturally remote from me as I would wildlife on another continent.

  35. the True Beard

    As a straight dude, you probably wouldn’t understand, but I have recently seen photos of Jon Hamm (aka Don Draper) with a True Beard. It is Truly Amazing and I totally called it months ago: beards are sexy and due for a comeback.

  36. to make sure you don’t seat to people who hate each other, usually high society women, next to one another.

    Jeepers- what’s the fun in that? I’d put them side by side, in easy reach of the carving knife.

    1. The thought of Richard Dawkins and Tom Cruise sitting next to one another makes me smile.

      So does the thought of Rush Limbaugh and Arianna Huffington side by side.

      1. If time travel ever becomes possible, I’d add the thought of Tennessee Harold Ford Jr. and Manhattan Harold Ford Jr rubbing elbows.

  37. The stupidest question (well, implied question) I have ever been asked was by someone at a party I attended to watch the last Pacquiao fight.

    The dude said, ‘I’ve heard that Pacquiao is worth more than the entire Philippines’.

    I didn’t have my phone on hand, so I couldn’t search it (GDP worth — 317 billion, I found out later).

    It came to my mind, ‘would Japan waste its resources on an invasion of a nation worth less than a prize fighter?’

    But, I decided that would come across as a little too insulting in my frame of mind. So I chose to mention Marcos’ gold from Cryptonomicon.

    Which got me the reply, ‘that’s a STORY. It isn’t real!’


  38. Out of curiosity, am I the only person who suspects that the punchline to her little story, where she smartly puts the boorish cad in his place, may have only happened in her head?

    I dunno, it just has that sort of self-serving, fictional “And then I would have told him!” quality to it. ‘Esprit d’escalier”, I believe it’s called.

    1. I especially enjoyed that her retort was “It’s too late, buster!”

      Oooh, what a ribald tongue lashing! To a businessman who gushed over her, no less.

    2. Oh yeah, well the jerk store called…yada yada yada.

      Yes it does come off like that.

  39. Anyway, Chris (Tweety) Matthews on Hardball just marveled at the wonderful and supremely competent American response to the Haiti earthquake and wondered why we couldn’t do the same thing here after Katrina. And really, the two are the same, aren’t they?

  40. There may be room for a middle ground between stuffy-with-assigned-seating and whatever barefoot hootenanny you engage in.

    Although, given the choice between the two, I just might choose the latter.
    reply to this
    Warty|1.14.10 @ 5:10PM|#

    Just as long as you show your tits. My male gaze needs fed, you know.

    I think Sugarfree spends so much time reading feministing because on a subconscious level a man has to find it empowering.

    To those girls, we men are Superhuman beings capable of omnipotent powers that we use to oppress them. It is kind of flattering, actually.

    BTW, a daring name like feministing is not apt for those gals. The site should be named BooHoo.com.

    1. The site should be named BooHoo.com


      1. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, although I recommend microwaving it a bit first to prevent frostbite.

  41. My two dinner partners (one of whom was not from Washington) spent the entire evening talking business to each other as if I didn’t exist.

    Who’s Sally Quinn, now?

    1. I think she was relevant in the 70s.

  42. Many years ago I was at a dinner party at the home of one of the fabled Georgetown hostesses, Oatsie Charles. It was a very formal and glamorous affair. In those days five courses and accompanying wine were de rigueur. Turtle soup with sherry. A fish course with white wine. The main course with red wine. The salad and cheese course with port, and dessert with champagne. And of course liqueurs and demitasse were served in the drawing room after dinner. That’s a long time to make conversation with your dinner partners. It was particularly long because my two dinner partners (one of whom was not from Washington) spent the entire evening talking business to each other as if I didn’t exist. I mean “business.” Like stocks and bonds and mergers and acquisitions. This was not exactly my specialty.

    That is the single most boring opening paragraph I’ve ever read. Why, exactly, is anybody other than Oatsie herself supposed to give a shit?

    1. She should have removed her blouse, poor thing.

    2. Aren’t we all so boringly vapid and sophisticated?

      1. Only if you aspire to be English.

    3. If she were telling this story at a dinner party where I was present, I would seek to end my life immediately by ripping out my own throat with a fork.

      Trouble is, I never know which goddam fork I’m supposed to use at dinners like that, so I’d probably live through it after all. Unfortunately.

    4. Demitasse!

      It is amusing when certain types of americans use french in an attempt to seem sophisticated.

      1. Are you implying something? (see below)

        1. Only that your crass, American, new world cutlery suicide rituals will never match the refinement, subtlety, and grace of those prescribed by the European formal dining canon.

          1. Americans don’t need utensils.

  43. Let me help, Tulpa. It’s generally considered gauche to commit suicide with the salad fork.

    Killing yourself with the dinner fork is okay, unless the dinner is accompanied solely by white wine or champagne.

    Self-immolation with the dessert fork is always okay, provided that you do so standing on the table, after reciting a death dirge. An acceptable, though non-traditional, alternative to the death dirge is to recite an original death haiku. This is not acceptable at black-tie events, however.

    1. Killing yourself with a demitasse spoon at the table is so difficult that it is considered a high honor by your host if you succeed at his/her dinner table.

    2. I’m one who looks to homicide before suicide when I find life unbearable, what utensils are acceptable for my type?

      1. Murder has a rich tradition at formal dining events. While poison is the traditional and most elegant method for eliminating unwanted tablemates, a quaint American custom has arisen in recent years of taking ones napkin, folding it neatly, and shoving it down the throat of the one to be homicided.

    3. I thought that a death haiku is only proper if you plan to die of natural causes.

  44. Incidentally, killing yourself with a knife–butter or steak–is right out. That’s considered a horribly bourgeois move, and will force your hostess to end the event right then and there in abject humiliation.

    In some circles, hanging yourself with a tablecloth is considered progressive and coolly proletarian, but that’s usually limited to purely academic settings.

  45. Sally, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Stupid formal boring dinner parties with assigned seating are the problem, not the poor souls who got stuck next to you. RC’s Cowboy blowout parties sound much better. gOatse’s parties blow chunks.

  46. “I’ll tell you what’s a real killer: scientists.”


  47. People still use the word “tight” to say “drunk”? Golly Gee Willickers that sure is swell!

    1. Hmm, I thought she meant something else entirely…

  48. She’s a talented girl.

  49. Maybe she was excluded from the conversation because she gets obnoxious when she’s drunk.


  50. What was the name of Rearden’s wife? Sally seems modeled on her.

  51. Sally needs some Vagisil in addition to her DEPENDS. Everything stinks about this old biatch

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