Standard Disclaimer: My blog, my opinion. You should do whatever you want for your own reasons. Also, no secrets are revealed here. I don’t know where the dinner is being held.
In general, I am very supportive of both pop-ups and flash mobs. And I think Dîner en Blanc actually falls into both of those categories. What I didn’t like about Dîner en Blanc was the ultimate cost (not mentioned or even well-outlined anywhere on their website), and some rules that made the environment seem unwelcoming for singles and possibly for same-sex couples.
Here’s how this happened. I have been curious about Dîner en Blanc, since I heard about them last year. Then they decided to launch in The States. My curiosity increased. I said something about them on Twitter and I received an invitation to register in the first wave for Boston. Yes, this did appeal to my ego. So I decided to check it out.
The participation fee of $25-35 per person is mentioned in the email about signing up. That didn’t seem too bad to me. My precise thought was “I drop that on a casual night at Bergamot.” I also assumed that fee included something.
But then it got weird socially. Registration asks for your gender. And automatically assumes your guest will be the opposite gender. I am a straight, single female. I don’t have any male friends who aren’t married or don’t work in industry. I had been planning to bring a female friend. When I changed the gender of my guest a little note popped up that says something like: for symmetry, we make every effort to seat men across from women, so if your guest is the same gender we cannot guarantee that you will be sitting next to them.
Um, so if I’m part of a same-sex couple, romantic or platonic, I can’t sit with my guest? Because it will mess up the symmetry?
Even as a straight person, that made me feel totally alienated. Sure sure. There’s another way to look at it. Maybe I would be seated across from some really cool, guy and something might blossom. But I just wasn’t optimistic about that.
So in that moment, I decided not to go. There is an option to say ‘regrets, I can’t make it, but invite me next year’ and become a member of Dîner en Blanc for a $5 fee. Fine, I’ll pay the five bucks and maybe I’ll have a symmetric male guest to take next year. And when I got to the check out page to pay that five bucks I noticed bottles of wine for sale. And I thought, ‘oh, clever!’ Then I noticed meals for sale. And I realized that the $35 per person registration fee doesn’t really cover anything. And it’s not totally clear if you can BYO anything.
So basically Dîner en Blanc boils down to $70 for you and your (subtly required to be) opposite sex friend. Then, if you do not already have them you need to acquire: a portable white table of a specific size, a white tablecloth, a white picnic basket (preferably in the French style), and two portable white chairs. You need to wear a white outfit. You need to get food for your picnic basket, preferably purchased through the Dîner en Blanc partners. And then you’ve got to schlep all of that somewhere. And this is just for S&G. No good cause benefits from all your money, effort, and oddly heterocentric good time.
If you can get all the items you need for free and you bring your own inexpensive food, with or without a cheap bottle of wine you can probably keep the cost to $50 per person. And the value to you is: an experience. One that is possibly as magical as they advertise. I’m all for art, beauty and community, but for me this costs too much, benefits no one but me (and presumably Dîner en Blanc), and the rules make it a community I do not feel welcome to join.
I look forward to hearing what the experience is like for those who attend.