So I’m in the car headed to a dinner with seven strangers. No big deal, just your average Tuesday night.
The folks at Stranger Danger Dinners have done all the work—they’ve found the restaurant, ordered the food and have done their background checks on the dinner guests, presumably via our Facebook friends, to make sure that none of us know each other. Part of me worries about the people I might be having dinner with who aren’t on my Facebook; old work colleagues, Tinder dates, ex boyfriends and the most dreaded kind of untouchable, the “unfriended.”
A cool creative friend first told me about Stranger Danger Dinners and how to get in touch with the reclusive Stranger to be put on the waiting list. Genius, I thought. Who doesn’t love a little mystery and word of mouth? I signed up immediately.
Our table at Budburst Small Bar wasn’t hard to spot; decorated with party hats, a vase of black roses and other dinner party paraphernalia. Rifling through the papers on the table, I discovered that one of our dinner guest’s birthdays was tonight. Unfortunately, it turned out Chickenpox was to be his birthday present and we would be celebrating in his absence.
Enter the seven other guests with their beers and wines (phew, no undesirables in sight)—Artsy Marketing Girl, Maritime Union Worker, Other Journalist, Chiropractor Mum, Cultured Graphic Designer, World’s Most Interesting Man and Student Waitress.
We start the night playing by the rules, following the format provided on the running sheets—name, work, hobbies, have we been “Perthed”? (do we know anyone at the dinner). Holy crap, I just found out Other Journalist hosts a popular Seinfeld quiz night in Perth. His name is now Seinfeld Quizmaster. I love him.
We drink more wine and nosh on our charcuterie platters or vego alternatives. Turns out Artsy Marketing Girl knows Student Waitress and most people at the table through one mutual friend or another. Someone mentions how they love The Smashing Pumpkins and it leads Chiro Mum to mention how she once penned negative thoughts all over a pumpkin and threw it off a bridge to help her get over a painful breakup.
The conversation and wine are already free flowing but we are determined to get into the pack of ice-breaker cards that the Stranger Danger folk have kindly left for us.
“What would you hide from someone visiting your house?” one card asked me, and the first thing that comes to mind is “my breasts,” being a freelancer who works from home sans underwire and doesn’t wish to offend the various religious groups who knock on my door during the day. Silence. Ah crap, have I gone too far? Nope, because soon someone is telling us how her boyfriend’s overstimulation of her breasts led to her producing breast milk. Her name is now Surprise Breast Milk. I love her.
The World’s Most Interesting Man makes movie props and sets for a living. He tells us how he killed an angry Taipan during a typhoon (don’t worry, he ate it), has had to cover himself in dead shark blood while shooting underwater footage (to repel other sharks of course) and once subjected an innocent young media student to helping him create a prop horse penis. Apparently it required two sets of hands, so to speak.
My eyes glazed over a bit as people told the group about their totally true encounters with ghosts (World’s Most Interesting Man has been involved in a full on exorcism of course). My mum’s voice plays in my head (“be nice”) and so I busy myself drinking wine and maintaining a serene expression.
Dinner arrives—a delicious lamb and mash dish with a side of roast vegetables and haloumi. We giggled over the picture of the prop horse penis being handed around and I realize we were running out of time for Seinfeld Quizmaster to give us a round of questions. What did George tell the girl he was distracting in the other room while Jerry switched out her answering machine tape, which contained an abusive message?* I love him. We are engaged now.
We tuck into our absent friend’s birthday cake and Cultured Graphic Designer gives me a recommendation for a new Scotch to try. If I weren’t already engaged to Seinfeld Quizmaster, I would marry him.
Like a well-oiled machine, the Stranger Danger peeps message us before the night is over to provide us with the contact details of our new dinner party friends, should our fledgling relationships survive IRL.
The restaurant gives us some leftover cake for the journey home and with a wave I leave my dinner party and walk into the cold night air—fed, watered and energised – perhaps never to hear from my new friends again beyond the odd Facebook status update.
On the car ride home, I’m reminded why I love travelling so much—meeting new people from different walks of life, being privy to different viewpoints, hearing people’s stories and sharing your best antidotes with people who haven’t heard them a thousand times before.
Far from being a try-anything-once experience, I could see Stranger Danger Dinners being something that I regularly book in; a pure dinner party experience unsullied by the trappings that familiarity can breed. There were no couples pulling each other home early, no people messaging on their phones all night and no one updating us on the latest installment of their why-my-manager-is-so-shit work saga. Instead I was provided with a chance to step outside of my social circle and sharpen my conversation skills with others who were on their best behavior. I could see a regular place in my life for it.
As Stranger Danger Dinners grow in popularity in Perth, (they are booked out for the rest of the year and are getting some interest from the East Coast) I am left to wonder how they will retain their shroud of mystery.
The Stranger seems to be keeping this in mind and has turned down many offers of press so that they can sensibly expand while retaining what makes these brilliant little dinner parties so great.
Luckily for me, they came around to this story, with the proviso that I can’t tell you how to find them.
So keep your eyes peeled and put yourself on the waiting list. They have some pop up events happening soon which may well get your foot in the secret door.
*George told her that his father wears sneakers in the pool.
Image credit: Stranger Danger Dinners