Here’s a challenge for you: when was the last time you invited 10 friends over for no reason, cooked for them, and just straight up enjoyed each others’ company?
Me? Last sunday. And the sunday before that. And so on and so forth. I tell people this, and they tend to respond with something like “you’re crazy!” and “i could never do that much work” and “i could never find the time.” But like other deliberate things I practice in my life (like yoga or running or brushing my teeth) I don’t feel right if I go too long without it. It’s not an extra chore, or a luxury, it’s an act of self- and other- love.
Here’s how Sunday Dinner came to be:
I was working as an ICU nurse. I had spent my first year in Tucson working nights, which was miserable. I started working day shifts after that, and my life transformed— I hadn’t realized how tired and unhappy I was until I started feeling better. And it was great— for a while. Then I started having some interactions at work that were less than great. Coworkers made racist comments and returned blank stares if I tried to gently ask for a different word choice. After-work drinks felt forced. People were displeased to discover that my sweet elephant tattoo was not a marker of my party affiliation. And, despite keeping my politics largely to myself, I got a few nasty anonymous notes in my locker with definite political overtones. This sounds awful when I write it out like this, but at the time, it just seemed vaguely unpleasant.
Around this time, I was reading Lizz Winstead’s autobiography. She describes a time in her life when she needed friendship and support, and she had a group of friends with a standing weekly dinner. They talked lefty politics, ate comfort food, and made each other laugh. And that, my friends, sounded like heaven to me. So that was the seed of sunday dinner chez moi.
I emailed my friends— some already close, some old but drifted a bit, some new— and asked them if they’d come. And reader, they came!
It’s a thing now. I cook vegetarian food, and nothing fancy. It takes some time to cook for 10 or 12 folks, true. It takes ideas (did we have tacos last week? shit!). It takes a little bit of cash (but it’s BYO beer/wine, and I’m not serving gold-leaf encrusted truffles or anything!). It takes a trip to the farmer’s market— gotta support your local farmer!
Sometimes it takes a little start-up energy to get going (just like going to yoga. . .) but HOT DAMN, does it ever make me happy. They show up, pretty much every week. We talk, we eat, we hug, we listen. We eat veggies! Sometimes we talk about politics or current events, but a lot of the time, we talk about our lives. We talk about grad school, about teaching, about being frustrated, about unemployment. We talk about music, or books, or video games. We disagree sometimes, and we listen to each other. Steve sometimes brings dessert (I’m not usually an ambitious desert maker— but I DO make a mean vegan chocolate cupcake). And then, they go home, and I go to bed, and I don’t mind the thought of monday morning.
This, my friends, is a transformative life practice. Try it. Let me know how it goes!