Saturday, September 16, 2006

cocktails, however briefly

Tonight, I went to a party.

To understand the significance of this, you need to realize that I do not go to parties. In fact, I was renamed as the local Snuffalupagus because my tendency not to go to parties led me to become some semi-mythical creature, known to some, proven by few. As you can imagine, this tendency did not so very much change when I became a parent.

At various points in time, people who knew that my partner was one of a set would try and figure out who his other half was, with the result that he now has three or four faux-wives scattered around New England. He has, as he points out, options. As do I: I attended an infant/child CPR course with a friend, the partner already having taken the class. The friend was female, and the instructor drew certain conclusions. So, I like to tell the partner, I too have options.

But yes, a party. We parents of young children don't really go to parties, as if there's some unspoken social divide between the have-diapered and the have-not. Maybe we're just too tired to make good conversation, maybe we're too tired to have a drink and walk home safely. Either way, we don't tend to go. Walking in, however, I remembered immediately: there is a feel to a party, a code of behaviour that I only ever imperfectly learned, a manner of engagement with others that doesn't quite exist outside of the party - though traces of it pop up when flirting. (Flirting..I think I remember flirting. Possibly.) Watching the party, which I left just as it was roaring into life, I remembered the limited methodology that I'd worked out for managing these events, which I'm writing down so that I don't forget.

After all, it's likely to be another year or two before I actually go to another of these things...

Rule One: thou shalt not converse.
Party conversation is not deep, there's a shifting mass of people and you just don't have time for any kind of serious conversation. What drives me a little batty is the ease with which the currents of the party can sweep away a person just when you've gotten through half of the 'so, how's things' conversation. This Rule may be Excepted if you think you are going to get laid or have met someone with Potential.

Rule Two: thou shalt be witty.
If you are having a lousy week, joke about it. A good friend will see beneath the wit and make a mental note to Call You Later, or pull you aside for a quick debriefing. Otherwise, see Rule One for the conversational guides and limitations vis a vis serious conversation.

Rule Three: have a plan of attack
In this case, our hosts had arranged this for us, by having everyone come as their favorite cocktail. I met my very first Cuba Libre (coke and lime?), a splendidly Old Fashioned, an extremely Fuzzy Navel, and a Scotch chaser who was delightedly offering to do so.

Alas, I had no such imagination. Minutes before leaving, I sniffed my shirt, dug out a pair of clean pants, and ran off, before the partner could hand me one of two determinedly awake children. I arrived to discover that I was wearing brown pants and a cream shirt, and described myself as a cup of coffee to my hostess, and hoped nobody else would ask. Mostly, they did not.

Given this arrangement, introductions were easy. You wandered up to someone, tried to guess their costume, failed and then traded names. From there, it was simple to move on to the job, place of residence, Jewish geography sort of thing. Occasionally, however, this fell flat. I passed a guy wearing a light blue shirt and matching hat, stopped and asked. 'I'm a manhattan,' he told me. I stared. 'See?' he pointed out, 'Man, in a hat. Manhattan.' I thought of the city of my childhood, grey tall buildings, people rushing past. 'No Manhattan that I know,' I carefully did not say. And moved on.

Rule Four: Be with or be occupied.
If possible, come with someone. Coming with someone means that you avoid the cafeteria-no-place-to-sit social experience of adulthood, and you always have a social haven to tuck yourself into. If you come alone, then you need to be occupied, lest you fall into the category of Slightly Sad Person Sitting/Standing Alone. No fun at all, that. So, failing a companion, consider either a. something in your hand. When all else fails, sip or munch. Or b. walking somewhere, purposefully. I shall now proceed to walk over there, and talk to that person. Excuse me.

I found that my party walk was faintly jaunty, and I spent some time on the ride home idly trying to figure this out. Wherefor the jaunt? And why do I have nothing else to occupy my brain?

I concluded that it was the pants. Yes, the pants I had grabbed en route were, at one time, my 'I can't believe that I fit into these' pants, a fact that somehow balanced out the conjunctivitis that yes, has now spread to the second eye. Taking a moment to navel-gaze, allow me to explain that one of the secret reasons that I do not go to parties is that this means getting dressed. Yup, that harrowing chore in which I look in my closet and review the clothing that does not fit, the clothes that make me look like an overstuffed sausage, and finally must turn and look in the mirror. I am rarely satisfied with the results.

Typically, my mom-gear is loose, comfortable and has as many pockets as I can find, short of buying men's clothes or camping gear. This is very different to the Want To Look Nice clothing, which tends to try to fit some idealized version of a person who is not me, and inevitably ends up by making me look lumpy. However, I am currently attempting to persuade myself not to look in the mirror and imagine how I'd look if that curve were higher, lower, lesser... So tonight I flung something on, did a quick check for baby spit, and ran. Thus the minor triumph of the pants, thus the party.

So, then, some part of my brain must have recognized the significance of the pants, weighed it against the eyes, and jaunted from triumph. I respect that. In fact, I allowed myself to jaunt the rest of the way home. And now I'm wondering if the jaunt might not have added benefits, and if this means that I should wear these pants at my big presentation on Tuesday...

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