Are people no longer taught the art of polite conversation? Attending a party, while you may disagree with someone during a discussion or you may notice that they have misspoken - there are correct and incorrect ways of handling yourself, of responding to someone you have only just met.
At a dinner party recently, surrounded by close friends and one couple whom I had just met (the man is close to some of my friends, his girlfriend had not met anyone previously), a conversation began about a trip that couple had taken. I was wrapped up in another discussion but they caught my attention when the woman declared that "The food was so good, you could not get a bad meal anywhere!" regarding their vacation spot.
I chimed in that I had a similar experience at another (different) popular vacation spot, and that I had, in fact, used the exact same phrase to describe it.
Woman: "I don't think so. I lived there for a year."
Myself: "Oh? Well I loved the food there. I had some of the best meals of my life."
Woman: "The food may be alright, but none of it is memorable. It's just not that good."
Myself: "How strange. That just wasn't my experience. Even the inexpensive meals from little food vendors were wonderful."
Woman: (slightly agitated) "But is ISN'T memorable food."
Myself: "I suppose it's a matter of differing tastes."
(Cue me standing and leaving the room for a cluster of people talking elsewhere.)
I want to know who taught her that this is a reasonable way to speak to a stranger at a dinner party. I have had people express opinions that I strongly disagree with at social gatherings, and when it is appropriate I may discuss our differing opinions, but I would never say to someone, "No. You are wrong." Particularly not in an instance where the facts of the matter are strictly subjective. I loved the food. She did not. Neither of us is wrong. It's immaterial.
I think the art of conversation has been lost. The ability to discuss differing views in an interested but not heated fashion. As well as the ability to discuss books, films, art and issues without resorting to scandal, vicious gossip or sex. I'm not averse to discussing sex at a dinner party, but I do not do so unless I am sufficiently familiar with everyone at the gathering so as to be certain that no one would be offended. As with gossip, I feel it shows a lack of imagination for sex to dominate the conversation. Some people cannot attend a social function without arguing with someone, making a vulgar comment that does not suit the crowd's comfort level or trash talking about anyone who did not manage to attend. I'm tired of it. Perhaps colleges (or even high schools!) should be offering courses in conversation - how to interact politely and speak intelligently - instead of assuming that simply learning facts about art, culture, literature, film, politics and religion will enable their alumni to discuss these matters like reasonable human beings.
If nothing else, I wish my friends would avoid inviting people to dinner who aren't capable of polite conversation. It ruined my appetite (and totally destroyed my buzz. A waste of perfectly good wine, I tell you).