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.