And then, of course, I drink a few glasses of Rioja and think 'What a fab conversation to have at a dinner party.' Only it's not really a fab conversation because when people admit how they truly want to be seen, their husbands or wives either a) get offended or b) contradict them.
What started out as a jolly discussion between mouthsful of lamb casserole turns into a litany of spouse failings because a husband dares to suggest that he wants to be considered a top businessman. The wife then splutters into her sauvignon and launches into a 'So you don't care if no one thinks you're a good dad/husband?' and we all have to cough into our napkins and quickly start talking about schools and property prices - again. No one has ever said - at least within my earshot - 'I want to be seen as more successful than everyone else round the dinner table,' but that kind of hovers unsaid over the raspberry frangipani and Green and Blacks chocolates.
But it is quite a fun game to play secretly. If you look around your friendship groups you can spot the person who simply wants to be liked by everyone. The one who likes to be viewed as cleverer than everyone else. The person who wants to be recognised as the holder of the knowledge, the first in the know. Then there's the peacemaker, the one who takes pride in being the first port of call for people with ruffled feelings. The man who likes to be acknowledged as the fittest, the leanest, the one with the stamina to ride 50 miles with barely a sip of Gatorade. The fashion plate, fielding the 'Where did you get that?' with aplomb, universally feted as the one who always looks great.
So then of course, I had to ask myself the same question. And the answer was frighteningly shallow. I want everyone to think I hold the best parties.
How is that compatible with all my education, the slogging through pre-war Italian politics, debated and summarised in Italian? The thesis on the rural depopulation of Corsica written in French? When all along the thing that mattered most was whether or not I could pick out a decent burgundy and do the business with a twice baked soufflé. Go figure. Or better still, come party, we can use the degree certificates to protect the table.