I had two reactions when I first heard about the break up with Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband. The first was sorrow: as a divorced (but now re-married) parent myself, I know how tough it will be for the whole family. But my second was this. What will happen when this golden couple go out to dinner - separately? And – more importantly – will the hostess try to match-make?
As readers of mine already know, I’m not a regular dinner party giver since my cooking skills are so limited. But I do like to use my soirees to get people together. Especially if someone has recently become single.
This can lead to all kinds of complications. Some years earlier, I invited a newly-separated school mum chum to dinner along with seven other guests. The others were couples apart from a male family friend who was in between girlfriends. Perfect, I thought. X could get together with Y.
I spent the whole evening, trying to jolly up conversation between them. ‘What do you think?’ I whispered to the school mum chum when she insisted on helping me clear the plates after the second course. ‘He’s very nice,’ she said apologetically. ‘But actually I met someone else yesterday. I didn’t like to tell you in case it spoilt the numbers.’
Spoilt the numbers? Actually it spoilt the pavlova which I couldn’t help dropping in disappointment. So much for my ‘personal introduction’ skills…
Still, that’s nothing compared with the sticky situation I found myself in when an old friend asked if he could bring his new girlfriend to dinner. That would have been fine – if his former wife didn’t happen to be a good friend too. Talk about division of loyalties! To make it worse, my friend rang on the day of the dinner party. ‘What are you doing tonight?’ she asked in a distinctly lonely voice.
Now I don’t like to lie. So I gently explained the truth. Understandably she was hurt even though she said she understood. When the friend arrived with the new girl, I was more than ready to dislike her. But – guess what – she was really nice. In the end, I decided not to sprinkle salt on her slice of lemon tart. (I’m much better at puddings by the way than main courses.)
Fast forward a few years and it’s all change at our dinner table. The friend married the new girlfriend and they actually went out to dinner with his ex (also still my friend despite everything) and her new man. Complicated? Wait till you hear the next bit. During those intervening years, I got divorced and then married the family friend whom I’d tried to team up with the school run chum. The best thing is that he likes cooking…….
‘It could make a novel,’ remarked my agent when I told her the story. It did. Your Place or Mine?
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