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    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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When You’re Alone and Life Is Making You Lonely

It’s been a while since I went to a book party, and I gotta tell you I was rusty. In the first place, I completely forgot to frisk the medicine cabinet. Then, I didn’t get my mitts around a glass of Cabernet for nearly a half hour. By then the party was in full swing and I was desperately searching the room for a friendly face. Another glass of wine and 36 baby carrots later (guess who’s back on Weight Watchers!?), I hit my stride, saw some old friends, chatted with some mucketies, thanked the host, hugged the guest of honor and headed home feeling only a vague sense of self loathing. All told: a good night.

I also ran into Walter Kirn and I’m saying this even though he’s NOT MY CLIENT: I love the guy’s writing. His new book is coming out next month and it sounds fantastic especially if you’re like me and imagine the person beside you is almost always a killer. And here is a home video which proves that highly intelligent people are not immune : http://walterkirn.blogspot.com/2014/02/video-killed-literary-star.html?spref=tw

Being writers and all, how do you do at parties? Honestly.

24 Responses

  1. Parties? Don’t even go them, at all, rather swallow razor blades. So, you’re one brave soul , Betsy.

  2. Feeling a fish out of water, and being able to catch up with Yours Truly before you hit your stride made my evening! All told: yes, agood night! (and she slipped into the night)…PMC

  3. Parties?

    I stand in the corner and try not to say “fuck” too loudly. I thank the hostess and try not to slur because I’ve emptied a flask of Bushmills outside working up the courage to come up the stairs.

    If there is a guest of honor, I look and make sure they’re not talking to somebody I’ve insulted before gingerly making my way into the informal line of obligatory ass-kissing.

    In short, I lie about whatever is wonderful, looks spectacular, or was a dandy putt there on 18. The spouse has never looked better.

    I write fiction: I lie. And, I try not to say “fuck” too loudly. At least, not in an accusatory way (unless it is somebody in office).

  4. Work the facial muscles, keep back to the wall, avoid breathing extroverted gusto gusts, take an interest in others, (at least one interest in one other) exit shamelessly.

  5. Not being a real “writer” I do just fine at parties until I inevitably have to admit to being a psychiatrist at which point I find myself standing alone clutching my drink pretending to look enamoured with my own company, or conducting a full-on consultation with someone who thinks that I can read mind or solve their longstanding issues in 20 minutes. I don’t get around much anymore.

  6. I don’t like parties.

    I can go to workshops and conferences and strike up a conversation—or at least offer an opening gambit—with almost anyone.

    But in a party situation, I suddenly feel like a cross between a barely housebroken puppy and Alfred J. Prufrock. It would be a terrible rudeness to foist myself on anyone.

    Best not to risk it, really.

  7. Hah…I love this.
    I’m the person who blends in with the beige wallpaper in the hallway or the over-compensating one telling the off color jokes in a British accent.

    Last year i covered this very subject in one of my ‘Enough Said’ columns. Here’s the last paragraph, it explains me exactly.

    Years ago, when I was single, young and stupid, I went to a party given by a co-worker’s family at one of those giant mansions with hundreds of feet of beach frontage right on Long Island Sound. They were boater types – lime green slacks, hot pink shirts with popped collars. I never felt so out of place since the time I wandered into a men’s room by mistake. I was so uncomfortable among the rich, and those pretending to be, that I ended up in the kitchen talking to the help. Comfortable among folks who swam in the same kiddie pool as me, I sat, with arms folded, on the large step-stool they used to retrieve the crystal from the high shelves in the butler’s pantry. When my friend walked into the kitchen to tell the help they needed more aioli for the crudités she asked me why I was sitting in the kitchen. I told her I felt sick and wanted to go home.
    I was sick alright; sick of being where I felt I didn’t belong – and besides that, the punch bowl was empty. Enough said.

  8. If I do okay at parties, it may be because I watch, listen, and ask questions . I am fascinated by others.

  9. First, I never want to go anywhere, preferring to simply live life sitting on my bed, my back propped up with pillows, the TV on in front of me, an iPad in my lap, my cell phone next to me and my book screaming at me from the other room to come work on it.

    But when I actually do leave the house, I do great at parties. I can talk to anyone about anything. I inherited this trait from my mother who could make inanimate objects talk. So, it’s hard to get me to go and then impossible to get me to leave because I’m always in the middle of a deep conversation with about twenty new best friends.

    Then, the minute I get home, I replant myself on the bed: TV, iPad, cellphone, screaming book, etc.

  10. It’s hit or miss, and dependent on current mood, which is generally fortified by drinking before party. But sometimes even that doesn’t get me “in the mood.”

    I’ve been to some where I was the shot queen, out drinking the thirty somethings who I left barfing in the bushes, while I continued to dance the night away. I’ve been to parties where I felt so awkward, I rearranged the host’s books, pillows, couch cushions, and then visited the bathroom forty times to see if toilet paper or clean towels were needed.

    The most fun I’ve ever had was at a 70′s theme party where we had to dress the part. I felt like I was someone else for a night, uninhibited, confident, bedazzled by the attention my outfit received. Too bad I can’t drag that out and put it on every time I have to go to one

  11. Funny you should ask. I went to one on Friday night. Reading, then party at a house with some mucketies. The mucketies were lovely, even through the filter of my envy, but it was the wanna-be mucketies that made me want to chew off my own arm and run away screaming. Pockets packed with their own business cards and mouths overflowing with their own citations, waiting, waiting, “AskmewhereI’vepublished AskmewhereI’vepublished AskmewhereI’vepublished” hovering in the air like a stinky, ashy miasma.

    I passed over the carrots for the book-themed cookies. Homemade, and fantastic. I may have brought a few home, secreted in a napkin, also book-themed.

    All in all, worth it for the cookies and the mucketies.

  12. I’ve learned I have a six person limit. Any party over six is just loud and chock full of pretending on everyone’s part, and exhausting.

  13. I’m actually good at parties… it just exhausts me and have to really gear up for one. And of course I analyze everything I said the minute I leave.

  14. I love a good party. There’s nothing like hanging out on the city’s fire escapes or rooftops with other writers & artists, a musician or two, drinking wine and talking shop. Especially in winter.

  15. Fer shit. I usually invent a completely transparent excuse as to why I can’t go (but which can be summed up by “I’m shacked up now, I don’t need to suffer through these things on the off chance I’ll meet the person of my dreams”). But if I can’t think of an excuse fast enough, my best hope is finding a fellow nerd and spend the entire night laughing uproariously about our own awkwardness and obsessions.

  16. Better than I used to do. I’m talking about parties where I know people and it’s good to catch up with old friends and listen to the braggers continue to boast and the amateur drinkers get louder and louder. Both my wife and daughter love parties, so it’s fun to watch them having a good time. That said, the key for me is not arriving too early and always being one of the first to leave. Now, parties where I don’t know anyone is a whole different story. I try, but I’m not that good at making small talk. One of the more entertaining room silencing comments I made, quite innocently, was at an party in Salt Lake City (you had to drive to Wyoming first to get decent liquor) after a day of skiing. Everyone was younger than me and I stumbled into a conversation with enthusiastic ultimate frisbee players. After listening and absorbing for a few minutes, I took advantage of a moment of silence and said, “So, you all are into frisbee, eh?” Coulda heard a hacky sack ball drop. Finally one person quite somberly informed me, “It’s called ‘ultimate’ or ‘disk’” Serious motherfuckers. I went off in search of the tequila and weed.

  17. I’m a hermit at heart and prefer to avoid parties unless I know most of, or at least some of, the guests. I do love book club gatherings where my book is the topic of interest. At those gatherings I delight in meeting new people and cast of my hermit’s robes.

  18. Ha. I walk into a party like I am walking onto a….raft. Adrift. My hair is strategically blown out. It’s all about the hair, really. And what I’m wearing. Cause, ya know, vanity.
    I usually try to spot my husband across a crowded room, to see if he’s enjoying himself, and like a mother hen, worry for a nanosecond (while I lose train of the conversation I am in) about what he’s saying, even though I decided long ago that I wasn’t responsible for what he says, he’s his own person, yadda yadda. Anyway, everyone thinks he’s funny. Just that he doesn’t always filter…
    Then, after the obligatory hellos, and puttin’ on that face-the-world smile signifying everything is oh so terrific in my life (kids are conquering the world, we just won the lottery), I check out the food, reach for some chilled amber pinot, and then, blurred lines.

  19. I love a party. Always have. Which is weird, because I’m insanely shy in real life, and I go out of my way to avoid crowds. But something about the word “party” gets the Pavlovian drool going.

  20. I don’t know. It’s never the same.

  21. “Being writers and all, how do you do at parties? Honestly.”

    Sucky, generally. Took four days even to look here and see that this party was going on. When young, did well at parties as joint-roller and deejay. Nowadays, virtual parties on the interwebs are my faves. Can attend in my boxers, as opposed to the old days when I had to get all dressed before I could go to a party and end up down to my boxers, or less, with someone I might not remember the following morn.

    I’m in Chicago so I’m not in my boxers this morn, I’m in my long johns and sweatshirt and bathrobe. Woke up this morning with my wife, the preference both she and I share.

    Party? Me? Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. What do I do?

    Write on.

    • Hi, Betsy, I’m back. I watched the Kirn viddy and thanks for posting that, but, jeez, did I ever want to bail way before closing credits rolled.

      Betsy, you and Mr. Kirn and I, we are all of a generation. We could be siblings. If he were my brother, I might tell him a thing or two. He might tell me a thing or two. I might tell him I read his first book when it came out, and I read it again three years ago (yes, I keep a list), and it was good both times, but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to keep up with his work.

      And I might tell him I should have his problems (except the bladder cancer, I’ll pass on that, please and thank you, not to seem too frivolous or callous). He’s had major publishing success and he’s doing what? Sitting in a corner of his room, complaining into a computer for nearly a quarter-hour? Man, I should have his problems.

      Betsy, the world that you and Mr. Kirn and I were born into and grew into, it has vanished. All that remains of it are ruins, up through which which grow the shoots of a new civilization. This is not news. Here we are. What are we to do? Wring our hands? Complain to our computers? Write on? I should hope we would write on. That’s what we do. That’s what we are, writers. If you and Mr. Kirn and I met at a, what’s it called?, “book party”?. I should hope we’d talk about books. Maybe not yours or his or mine, but other people’s, new and old. Or anyone’s we wanted to, what the fuck, ours included, I’m going for more wine, and I have a flask of tequila in my backpack, nestled in with the books. Real books. Words on paper, bound, with covers ‘n’airthang.

  22. I know, man, the partying days are long gone. Used to be I’d get excited about a good deal on a 12 pack of beer. Now when a 12 roll of toilet paper is on sale I do what passes for a little jump for joy.

  23. Parties? Parties? Haysoos Christo. This is me on parties:

    I’ve downed too much witty-making sauce before even pushing the doorbell. I’m already a lost cause before I even unleash my first desperate-to-be-liked/contemptuous-of-all-humanity flask breath on someone.

    My failure to attract fans, love interests, or even respect at the party causes me to leave 10pm early (but 2 am drunk). Afterwhich I resolve to avoid everyone generally, henceforth. As I crookedly cycle home, I invent words like afterwhich and do not even notice, as I am so fueled by a mysterious righteousness. Fuck the world. Fuck genial gatherings. Fuck love. I will WRITE.

    The day after such parties, I go back to my job as a janitor, which lets me savor a sense of doom and aesthetic thwartedness.

    At parties I also look in the medicine cabinets for Q-Tips. I inevitably find some, then I prod my ears until I am nearly bleeding. For this compulsive reason I cannot keep Q-Tips in my own house.

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