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Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hosts With the Mostest

Last weekend Lulu and I hosted an engagement party in honor of friends who are set to be married in late October. As one of the only members of the wedding party who live in DC, I thought it would be only proper to offer my party planning skills to throw the soiree. I had no prior experience in planning engagement parties. In fact, the sum total of my party planning experience was when I served as social chair in kickball for two seasons, and that mostly entailed trying to wrangle cheap keg deals out of DC bar proprietors. But my mother has perfected the art of high-brow cocktail parties tinged with bohemian whimsy, so I figured I had an hereditary advantage. Surely party planning is an inherited skill. The group house that I live in throws several fetes a year, always resembling the usual DC house party of several hundred strangers stuffed into our downstairs, cheap beer flowing freely, and at least one visit from the local law enforcement officials. This one would be different, so I turned to my experience as a party attendee for inspiration. It was then that I realized how one-dimensional my celebratory experiences in DC have been. With the exception of the occasional spontaneous "small gathering" in a friend's living room where attendees tend to get ridiculously plastered on cheap wine, the majority of the non-bar parties I have attended in DC have fallen within the raucous house party variety--the kind that although fun, tend to represent a stubborn allegiance to the Peter Pan school of adult responsibilities where 20-somethings cast aside their goals of someday perfecting normal adult behavior in order to chug Miller High Life and chase the elusive dream of eternal post-adolescence. There's nothing wrong with this, but it in no way resembles the events I envisioned myself attending when I was younger when I thought that my 20s would resemble a Wilt Stilmanesque world of dashingly disheveled fallen preppies trading witticisms over martinis.

Ironically, the closest I have ever experienced to the latter was cocktail hour in my friend Ted's room my junior year of college. Ted actively sought to be the most destructive force in the lives of everyone around him, while at the same time embodying the qualities of stuffy lock-jawed Brahmin culture. He spent his weekends roaming the Ohio countryside in his decrepit old Saab in search of antiques, perfecting the art of the perfect Beef Wellington, and chasing willowy blond field hockey players, much of it in some sort of quixotic gesture to John Cheever, an author he had at one point unsuccessfully lobbied our school's English department to include in its syllabus (asking PhDs in Post Modern Theory and Post Colonial Theory to value the insights of the muse of WASP America was ultimately a lesson in futility, much like the lives of the characters in Cheever works themselves). On the other hand, his favorite activity often included dropping several tabs of acid and finger painting the walls of his room. I think he just liked to be a contrarians, and its probably for that reason that he and I hit it off so well. Anyway, my junior year, Ted decided that it was an absolute abomination that nobody had yet thought to throw weekly cocktail hours on Friday afternoons so he set to work making it happen. It was decreed that every Friday from 6-7 (or 5-6, I can't remember which), 50 of Ted's nearest and dearest would cram themselves into his room (it was a tight fit, but the room was unusually large), dressed in their cocktailery finest to sip gin and tonics or gin martinis (those were our only beverage options. Ted felt strongly that we all had to learn how to appreciate the juniper berry). Although it seemed perfectly natural at the time, in retrospect, I am sure that the site of a couple dozen wealthy bohemian hipsters shedding their vintage bootcut Levis and too-small indie rock tee shirts to don suits and cocktail dresses, while exposing indecent body piercings and body hair may not have been met with approval from Mr. Cheever himself. But we fancied ourselves the height of sophistication at the time and we were too young, stupid, and arrogant to appreciate our folly. If you had the audacity to show up in your normal clothing you were sent away to change, and if you refused to drink gin you were denied alcohol altogether. Pretentious yes, but loads of fun, as the events would inevitably drag out for hours as the hard core among us lingered and the toxicity of the substances ingested multiplied exponentially (the gin was merely a precursor to the harder stuff).

So, in planning this fete my experiences in Ted's room were present in my mind, although I in no way sought to emulate their debauchedness. Rather, Lulu and I simply invited a couple dozen of those near and dear to the couple to bring over a bottle of wine to share with the group. We provided finger food, cups, plates, napkins, seating, and my living room to enjoy them in. Amazing how smoothly things fell together. The main challenge we encountered was overcoming the obstacle imposed by little sleep the night before (damn you Cop Week and cute boys who tend bar!) to buy supplies. But once that was over with, it was smooth sailing. Snacks were prepared, guests arrived with wine in hand, and most everyone followed our instructions to don "festive attire." Seeing a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings decked out in cocktail dresses and sports coats while hanging out in my shabby living room made me oddly proud. It seems counterintuitive but hosting can be a great activity for those of us who are naturally introverted or not always into making small talk. Having the need to freshen somebody's drink, answer the door, or putter around in the kitchen is the perfect excuse to exit a boring conversation. An added bonus of party-throwing is excellent left-overs. There was no extra wine, but my fridge is stocked with cheese and exotic spreads.

It may not have been quite the Fitzgeraldian experience I would have liked (and they were narcissistic alcoholics anyway and I have no immediate plans to perish by fire anyway), but people had fun, and the couple was pleased. In the end, that's what's counts. In relating the evening to my mom, she was thrilled that her daughter had finally incorporated something remotely adultish into her chaotic social life.

Here's to many more "adultish" evenings to come.


Anonymous e2 said...

Your couple friends sure did enjoy their party due to some excellent hostesses. :-)

7:18 PM  

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