Sunday, November 27, 2011


Marvelous Darlings--"I Don't Wanna Go To The Party" (mp3)

As we head into the holiday party season, I've been thinking about partyhoppers. You know who they are--people who are so popular(?) and so overcommitted that the night that you are having your party they have been invited to several others. And they intend to make them all.

So they'll drop in, exchange some pleasantries, probably make it very clear on the front end that they "can't stay" as they turn down or minimize various offerings from their host or hostess of a drink or something to eat or participation in some activity. Even as they say hello, the look in their eyes says leaving soon.

I suppose that this could be seen as a kind of sharing the wealth. If everybody wants you at their parties, then who are you to deny anyone? It could be seen as kind of a way of meeting all of the obligations in one's life, but in a sweeping, unsatisfactory way. Because here is the reality--even if you only partyhop to two parties, you're going to leave one too early and arrive at one too late.

There is no way around that. Maybe that's the way that it has to be now, but I don't think so. Is it really essential that you be everywhere on that one night? Is someone really going to be crushed if you let them know that you have a previous commitment?

Back when there used to be etiquette, there was a very simple rule that one followed: the social engagement that you were invited to first was the one that you went to. Period. Someones got their acts together and planned something far enough in advance that everyone had a chance to keep their calendars clear. And that was that. No need for haggling with your spouse or checking with pals to see where the action might be or coming up with righteous self-justifications for why it would be okay to go to these other places instead. That didn't mean, of course, that you had to accept that original invitation, but if you did, you were committed, regardless of what "better" offers might arise.

That would never work in today's world. We poor social butterflies, trapped between unpleasant invites and last-minute plans would never be able to guarantee ourselves maximum fun. Or maximum social cache. Or the ability to decide which location we absolutely have to go to, for whatever reason, at whatever moment prioritization strikes us.

Of course, if you know me, you know that there is one kind of partyhopper in particular that sticks in my craw. Yep, it's that certain kind of Christian. That Christian partygoer will determine that a Christian social engagement supersedes any other social engagement, even if it was only planned the day before and the other one has been on the books for months. Why? Well, because it's Christian. If I have to explain beyond that, I might as well move out of the South. Which doesn't mean that he or she won't drop in at your place or show up at your dinner party having already eaten, but it will become quickly clear that there is a broader agenda at work. If the people of the Lord summon, the concerns of the world must be set aside.

The other strange, perhaps related, permutation is the separation of husband and wife partygoers. This accomplishes two things: 1) it allows for much greater coverage for that family as social unit, and 2) it allows both partners to go to the place(s) that they really want to go. What it does not accomplish is that indefinable synergy that occurs when the couple is there.

I don't think that, most of the time, when a host invites a "Mr. and Mrs." or whatever, that he or she only wants one of them to show up. Most of the time. There are some spouses that never come, and so we all get used to them not being there, and when they do show, that is its own kind of awkwardness. But most of the time when couples come as a team, they bring a confidence with them that allows them to spread positive energy throughout a party, drawing single people into conversation, supporting the vibe. A person who comes to a party without his or her longtime supporter tends to be a different person.

In the worst case scenario, the person hosting the party has tried to create a careful balance of men and women and finds himself with, for example, a bunch of husbands, as happened to me on Halloween. One wife no-showed, one never comes to anything, one stayed 10 minutes, one was up the street at a high school friend's party, even though she had cornered me in an earlier situation and demanded to know whether I was having a Halloween party because she was inviting herself. She was at my house for about 15 minutes.

There is no doubt that managing a social calendar is a skill, but it has become clear, to me at least, that it is a skill that few people have. As always, I don't exclude myself from that criticism. But I do think that the more parties one actually hosts, the more sensitive he or she is to the unacceptability of having a bunch of part-time or part-couple guests giving lip service to what can be an exhausting and expensive endeavor.

The ultimate solution, dare I say it, is to throw your own party. Then you know exactly where you're supposed to be. At least for one night. And I will be happy to drop in, for a little while, but I've got this other place I need to go. Would it be okay if my dog dropped in for awhile instead?

Not much rocks these days. "I Don't Wanna Go To The Party" does. 'Nuff said.

1 comment:

rodle said...

Great post, at least the beginning of it. I didn't finish it because my wife called me in to read some blog that she prefers. I hope yours ended well, though.