A conspiracy exists and it goes like this: Parties are Fun! I keep falling for it. And then I go to a party, and I remember: Parties suck. I tell myself this is because other people do not know how to throw a good party. In my mind, a good party looks like Holly Golightly’s party in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There are interesting guests wearing fabulous outfits, and someone’s hair catches on fire but it’s no big deal.
Alternatively, I picture some kind of hippie-fairytale-lovefest where people dance barefoot under string lights and pass the peace pipe while a woman with waist-length chestnut hair plays guitar.
But I can’t blame other hosts; none of my parties look like this either. My parties are like everyone else’s: people sit on the couch and talk about stuff. Usually boring stuff. There are chips and mediocre wine. No one smokes anymore so no one’s hair catches on fire.
The best party I ever threw was a Mardi Gras party. Someone broke a chair by sitting in it. I considered this a great triumph. Later, the party even devolved into people playing folk songs on a guitar. Where had the guitar come from? It was a minor party miracle. I should have also considered this a great triumph, but by then it was two o’clock in the morning and I wanted everyone to go home.
At a recent Christmas party (hosted by someone else), I was loitering awkwardly by he chips until I saw another woman tucked into the corner of the sofa, actively avoiding the goings-on by looking at her phone. Aha! I thought. A kindred spirit! I sat down beside her.
“Hi,” I said. I was really going out on a limb here, trying to have a good time.
“Hi,” she said. She did not look up from her phone.
Feeling that forthrightness and even a bit of vulnerability were in order, I summoned my inner Brené Brown and said, “Do you feel awkward at these things?”
“No.” She did not look up. “I’ve been to enough of them to know what to expect.”
Clearly, the woman was some kind of party Zen-master. She’d relinquished all her illusions about the inherent nature of parties. I was out of my league.
“Um,” I said, floundering. A long time passed. Maybe four or five years. Finally the woman remembered I was there and that she should be polite. “Why do you feel awkward?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I mumbled, trying to remember why I’d started talking. “I guess I just do?” The woman was silent, still scrolling. “Okay,” I announced (unnecessarily). “I’m going to get a refill.”
I did not need a refill.
Everyone else seemed to be having a good time. They were talking to each other. Some of them were even laughing. I thought: What the fuck is wrong with me?
Perhaps it’s simply an issue of expectation. So many things in life have turned out lame that I thought would be unbelievably awesome. Grad school. Driving a car. Having my own mailbox.
Accepting that parties inherently suck once you exceed ten years of age is one of the hardest truths of adulthood. I still struggle with it. That’s why, at your next party, I will be the weirdo huddled in your laundry room with the cat and a creepy smile on my face. Don’t be scared—I’m only trying to make my face look fun. Have mercy on me, refill my wine, and shut the door.