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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Would Cry Too If It Happened to You

Do my tits look really big in this shirt? Agh, getting ready for a dinner party. Eighteen people. A frighteningly high percentage of poets. Other brainiacs from the campus known as Yale. Maybe some day, in anticipation of a dinner party, I will feel and behave like a grown up, but not yet. Why do I want to have a tv dinner and watch Glee in my jammies?  My husband points out the networking possibilities. This is the exact wrong thing to say. Though I know he is right and I know that other agents would work the room like a square dance chain. Last night, in anticipation of the big event, I threw a shit fit over which water pitchers to use. My husband and daughter got really quiet and I knew crossed a line. It felt insanely good. One of my professors used to call parties enforced gaiety.

Does anyone really like parties? Anyone? Please tell me how much you hate them. Or the worst thing that ever happened at a party besides waking up in the bushes on Eastern Parkway with your bra in your jeans pocket and vomit in your hair.

59 Responses

  1. Parties always sound like such a good fun idea in the planning… and are a pain in the ass in the doing. Even getting ready to go to someone else’s party sometimes seems like too much work. Snuggled up in my jammies with a nice warm dog and hot husband and the latest Netflix arrival. Oh God. When did I get old?

    I never was much of a party girl though. I have always been more the ‘designated driver’ sort. Not the one you describe, but the one who is helping the friend get out of the bushes and find her underwear and wash her hair.

  2. I loved them once, before I understood what they normally entailed. Of thousands attended, the five good ones were enough to keep me going back for years. They (the five) were different and didn’t involve people standing around with drinks shouting over the music and looking beyond their counterpart to some piece of moving sex-meat. I’m boring myself just writing about it.

    P.S. Is anything where networking is cited as a benefit really worthy of being called a party?

  3. Not since the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf party…of course there was that time, first night on campus, studying for my doctorate in history, at student/faculty gig. The first time I had to say: “Get your hand out of my dress!” not knowing he was a history. maybe if I had at that moment I would have punched him. Those were the days of quotas for women in grad. school. I hate dinner parties..ahahahahate

  4. I hate them. HATE. After a couple of glasses of wine, I want to stand in the center of the room yelling, “Stop judging me!”

  5. my husband and i used to have a party the saturday after thanksgiving. it was the kind with broken bottles left on our hard wood floor and homemade ashtrays on every surface top.

    one year, i got so high cooking all the appetizers that i ended up passing out cold before anyone showed up. all night, people kept coming in our room to smoke joints and try to wake me up (to smoke with them).

    my last hoorah was four christmases ago at my company’s holiday party (that i planned) when i got too drunk to stand up and instead fell into a table where my CEO and fellow workers were sitting, knocking every single bottle, wine glass, and tumbler to the floor.

    i stopped drinking for good the following summer. parties aren’t nearly as fun anymore.

  6. I hate parties. Hate isn’t even a strong enough word. I’m no good at small talk. After I’ve said fine thank you, how are you, I’ve got nothing. I could give a speech in front of hundreds of strangers and be okay. It’s one on one that kills me.

  7. Parties were okay when I was looking to get loaded and laid. The first happened a lot more often than the second.

  8. “Why do I want to have a tv dinner and watch Glee in my jammies?”

    And this is why we love you: because you’re just like one of us (only more talented and successful).

    Hope you survive.

  9. I love the idea of parties but once I get there it’s 50/50. I find that low expectations and a two drink minimum, four drink maximum gives you the best chance of a having some actual fun.

    My worst party experience was a Haloween party a couple of years ago. I went as Wonder Woman; let’s just say I did not act in a manner befitting such a storied superheroine and had to retire the costume in shame.

  10. Not good at ego jousting party talk and if I drink will definitely tell you what I think which is often awkwardly the perspective the host abhors.

    • Egos can suck the air out of any room, that’s for sure.

    • You can just have fun, I think. Relax and focus on other people. Before I got my depression treatment worked out I was wayyyy anxious at parties, at least sometimes. Now it’s much better–though that could also be a side-effect of oldness and who gives a toss what people think about you based on superficial contact.

  11. Sorry, Betsy, I like parties. I’m a performer. I was always the ice-breaker at parties, doing any wacky thing so people wouldn’t feel self-conscious. For that reason, even people who hated me would invite me to theirs.

    Worse time:

    I invited the unhinged girlfriend of a drug dealer to my 29th birthday, where she loudly threatened to have one of my roommates killed for some perceived offense. After a feverish attempt at diplomacy to calm her, I threw everybody out (I told them someone had complained to the police), then went with my roomies for a walk through the Jamaica Plain cemetery, where we all came down from our mushroom trip. A fresh, thick snow had fallen, and the tombstones gleamed white and clean. The perfect antidote to a death threat.

    • Loved reading this. Straightforward but poetic, comical, melancholy, vivid description. :
      I invited the unhinged girlfriend of a drug dealer to my 29th birthday, where she loudly threatened to have one of my roommates killed for some perceived offense. After a feverish attempt at diplomacy to calm her, I threw everybody out (I told them someone had complained to the police), then went with my roomies for a walk through the Jamaica Plain cemetery, where we all came down from our mushroom trip. A fresh, thick snow had fallen, and the tombstones gleamed white and clean. The perfect antidote to a death threat.

  12. Worst, not worse.

  13. This is one kind of party I like. Don’t get to many of them, but a few.

    “I and I came to change the mood.”

    “Remooooove ya!”

    • OMG, I LOVED that movie! I saw it when it first came out. That, and Land of Look Behind are the best two reggae films ever.

    • Wants to party with MP.

      • Dude, why??? Military Police suck at parties–the rules, the body armor, the unimaginative appetizers …

        Oh wait … sorry, am in the mood for silly jokes today–take that autumn!

  14. Betsy, hope you had fun or at least not too much angst!

    Re throwing parties: I LOVE. Everything’s good except the cleaning part, but I don’t hate that either (music helps). Planning, shopping, decorating, preparing food, arranging flowers, fixing drinks, enforcing diabolical storytelling games when people start to get too drunk and boring–all fun! And it can be interesting to introduce people who’ve never met and observe the blossoming of new friendships or acquaintanceships or I-don’t-totally-hate-you-ships. Love the random confessions, debates, laughter. And the party itself is not much work. I mean, once it gets rolling it picks up a dynamic of its own and you just have to nudge it a bit with music, introductions, stupid party games, dancing, singing, whatever. Don’t mind cleaning up after either, because the house is still humming with warmth and energy. My husband helps a lot too and is really good at putting people at ease. Wow. Unbearable, huh? (Sorry, party season begins in November, so I’m happy thinking about it.)

    *Certainly have embarrassing/awkward party stories, but am saving those for the party at Betsy’s house on Saturday. Kidding! I kid.

  15. I live in the hometown of George W. Five liberals live here: me, my husband, my father-in-law, the only other writer in town who actually sells books, and a homeless guy down on Michigan Avenue who dances when drivers pass. He’s a happy clam, but pretty sure he doesn’t vote. Not that it would make a difference.

    Every party I go to will eventually turn to politics, and by the end of the evening, my head has exploded so many times, people are picking brains off their cocktail napkins. I’ve never openly shared my political views, but a close friend and I used to have some ripping good discussions. I guess she ratted me out. During the last Presidential election, I was told at every party, wedding and funeral that Obama is a commie, I was a socialist for voting for him, abortion is a sin, the medical care overhaul will be the downfall of America, and Sarah Palin is fucking brilliant. I lost a lot of brain tissue during that time.

    I loathe parties. I don’t like them when people are there that I like, but having to go to parties here, where lots of people are Tea Party Folk, is like having my teeth drilled without Novacaine.

    So, fair Betsy, it could be a LOT worse. You could be stuck living in Bible Belt Republican Hell. Oh, the best part? These are oil people with shit tons of money – lots of them trust fund babies who’ve never worked a day in their life. Somehow, that makes the issues of immigration (Hell no! Mexicans go home! – except that guy who does my yard and the nanny and the maid), social services (Get a job!) and medical care (If you had a job, you’d have insurance!) really, really hard to listen to. They discovered my daughter is gay, so they stopped asking about her. I am bitter.

    When I can’t get out of going, I have one Diet Coke, circle the room so I’m seen with my husband, then leave and go eat a cheeseburger, cooked by an immigrant who has no health care.

    Wow, this turned into a sermon. I don’t mean to start a political discussion – Jesus God, no! – just pointing out why I hate parties where I live.

    • If it’s a sermon, you’re preaching to the choir.

      (Sorry, that joke was low-hanging fruit. I had to have it.)

    • Wow. There should be some type of intervention possible. At least dropping care packages into fields at night.

    • Holy fucking shit. I loved this comment. I spent the last couple years of high school in Oklahoma. I didn’t realize where I was exactly until years later and with some perspective and experience in life. You’ve taken me right back there. God (although there is no God), I really feel for you. If I had to live somewhere like that again I’d get arrested at dinner parties. Being in the midst of that horde of idiots would make me positively homicidal. We’ve got to get you the fuck out of there. Should we take up a collection?

  16. I always tried to like parties. The only way I can get through a party is through a couple glasses of wine. Somehow I turn from introvert to extrovert after a single glass.
    I like the preparation of parties when two to three people gather to cook, bake, set up. But after that (the fun part) I just want to go snuggle in my bed with hot chocolate to watch The Goonies, or read a book.
    The one person I know, though, who is an expert party thrower, is a close friend of mine. I’d never miss a party of hers, but she’s not much of a partier herself (which must be why she so brilliantly throws them).
    We could all take a few tips from Tessa on her party throwing skills.
    From what I gather:
    -It helps if you name the party (ie. Parah Senrod’s Bappy Hirthday Pancing Darty, Breffix Going-Away Party, etc). They must be misspelled or grammatically incorrect in some way.
    -Must include modest amounts of alcohol.
    -No more than eight people (and almost everyone should know each other).
    -Food.
    -If things are going badly throw in a documentary. No one has to talk to each other.
    -Food
    -No matter how old you are, Apples to Apples is FUN.

    I’ll keep taking notes… just in case I’m ever forced to throw such nonsense.

  17. Eighteen people for dinner. Wow. I start hyper-ventilating and feeling overwhelmed when it gets up to eight. Hope it goes better than you expect.

    I hate parties where I don’t really know anyone. I’m not good at stranger small talk. I’m better at casual parties with good friends.

    Love the image of an agent square-dancing around the room.

  18. I’ve tried to like parties, but by the time I get drunk enough not to care what anyone thinks, I do just that and leave.

    One of the reasons I read about writers and collect their quotes is because they help validate how we are. Like Patti Smith, in Rolling Stone: “I’m not one much for parties, so I wanted to get out of there.”

    For literary parties, I’ve always liked this bit from Mary Lee Settle:

    (What was the effect of the National Book Award on your career?)
    It should have been wonderful, after all the necessary years of obscurity, but it was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had. The envy, the viciousness were appalling. My husband said afterwards that he would rather be invited to a train-wreck than a New York literary cocktail party.

    • “I’ve tried to like parties, but by the time I get drunk enough not to care what anyone thinks, I do just that and leave.” ha!

      Yep, done that too. God, now I’m thinking of all the things I’ve done at parties to try to introduce a bit of fun into the proceedings. Oof, hasn’t always gone well.

  19. Parties are the perfect way to prove to yourself that:

    a) you’re not witty enough to talk to anyone
    b) you’re not interesting for anyone to want to talk to you anyway
    c) you should really be at home working for that matter
    d) that for every networking opportunity, there is the equal opportunity to fail in front of someone you respect

    On the other hand, sometimes you luck into the perfect mix of guests, a non-threatening atmosphere and the kind of experience that reminds you why you wanted to share things with people in the first place.

  20. I don’t drink, therefore parties for me consist of watching people get progressively stupider and more obnoxious while I get progressively more bored. Not fun at all. I only enjoy them if there’s something to do, like back when you were a kid and there were all manner of games and stuff to do. The standing around thing is what gets me. I’m like, I could be standing around being bored at HOME – at least then I could be in my PJs.

  21. I’m impressed if there was only one meltdown with a dinner party that big. Definitely worth a couple – at least. I once went sliding down the stairs on my bottom. I bowed and thanked everyone. I’ve also tangoed to the Scorpions. It must be a European thing.

    • Sliding is a synonym for falling.

      • I just remembered my own most embarrassing moment which had been comfortably blocked out of my conscious mind until I read about your slide. I was dancing at a wedding reception with my husband (first husband, that is … the one responsible for every bad thing that’s ever happened to me). He spun me around on the dance floor and treated everyone to the sight of my bare g-stringed ass. It turns out that a knit dress with a heavy hem is surprisingly good kite material.

        God help me. Thanks for bringing that one back, Deb. I’ll have my head under a pillow all day.

  22. It was a few years ago. My wife and I went up to a friend’s cottage for a big birthday bash. Our friends, it turned out, were friendly with some other people at the party. Very friendly. Very very friendly, like Penthouse Forum friendly. My wife and I liked our friends, but we didn’t LIKE our friends. We ended up sleeping in the car. Very uncomfortable silence over the scrambled eggs the next morning.

  23. It was a few years ago. My wife and I went up to a friend’s cottage for a big birthday bash. Our friends, it turned out, were friendly with some other people at the party. Very friendly. Very very friendly, like Penthouse Forum friendly. My wife and I liked our friends, but we didn’t LIKE our friends. We ended up sleeping in the car. Very uncomfortable silence over the scrambled eggs the next morning. I longed for small talk.

  24. In 2003 I went to a party and met a man (and I wasn’t even on the look out) who I married a year later. Then I wrote a book and in the Acknowlegments I wanted to thank the friend who had invited me to that fateful party but his wife hated the idea: they were too rich and too famous and I was too piddly a writer to drag their name into print. So I ended up thanking the friend-of-the-friend who had hosted the party, and was secretly thrilled when Bear Stearns tanked a week before my pub date.

  25. Two words: Tor. Ture.

    I read that extroverts are energized by being around a lot of people. For us introverts, it’s exhausting and confusing. I get that it makes us seem aloof and superior. But we are baffled by how extroverts can chat easily with strangers.

    Worst thing that happened? Eating a shishkebab appetizer without sliding the food from the stick first, and giving myself an acupuncture jab at the back of the throat. That took care of any conversation for the rest of the evening.

    • Agreed. My whole bafflement of why the heck people enjoy parties is summed up well in this look at introverts.

      http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201008/revenge-the-introvert

    • Yeah, I get the exhausting, confusing part. And ow! Shishkebabing yourself (oh hmm) sounds awful, sorry.

      Also it SUCKS when people think you’re being snooty when you’re just being reserved.

      Was forced to take some of those “personality tests” at various jobs (everyone had to–it was part of a seminar or onsite or offsite, whatever)–anyway, always wind up right in the middle, equal parts intro and extrovert, which is pretty consistent with how I’ve been since age 3, or so I’m told. Think we get sold a story that we’re one or the other, frankly, but maybe I’m wrong….

  26. I’d have to go way back to college. I was a J-Major and working on the student newspaper and yearbook and one of the kids threw a party for both publications. I had this big crush on the editor of the yearbook–blond, blue-eyed, brilliant, drop dead gorgeous. The only problem is she was engaged to a senior Air Force ROTC guy who could best be described as a cross between Maverick and Iceman. Me, I was this dopey freshman kid who got blind drunk and then in front of everyone declared my undying love for her and that she ought to dump Maverick/Iceman for me. Fortunately for me they took it all as a precious little joke and laughed it off. I don’t remember any of this. What I do remember is waking up the next morning at a friend’s apartment. I had passed out on top of a floor heating grill. It was winter and the heat was on. It took a good couple of days before the red welts from where the right side of my face had been pressed against it went away.

  27. After being dumped for the first time (yea college) my best friend drug me to a party to drown my sorrows. Wouldn’t you know it the ex was there making out with some big busted blond girl. The best friend disappeared into a closet to fool around with a handsome stranger while I drank straight vodka until I managed to fall off a couch. A nice girl took pity on me and offered to drive me home. She dropped me off at my apartment complex and sped off. It wasn’t till I stumbled my way to the door that it occurred to me I left my purse containing phone, keys and wallet at the party. I slept on a pool chair until security called the cops on me. For some reason the cops didn’t believe that the drunk with no id was a resident. I had to call my mother, the only number I could remember, from the police station. I hate parties.

  28. So the unanswered question is: Was Harold Bloom at the party, and what did he say about this video? (Sorry if it doesn’t embed. It’s worth a copy and paste.)

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/10/27/qt/so_you_want_to_get_a_ph_d_in_the_humanities

  29. Being a man worthy of his own salt, I’m going to ignore your question and just give you more advice. Big tits, poets, and I imagine some booze. That does sound like a party. But I wouldn’t suggest networking, I would say haunt the room like an assassin — Yes, they are big, big little poets, who wants to come and rest their smoldering tongues on them, I’ll take care of you. And once they settle in, show ’em how to use a pen.

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