November 1, 2009 Leave a comment
In the wee hours of November 1, mere minutes before we both set to work on our novels—the mere idea of which, by the way, fills me with impotent terror—I am lying on my couch choosing to think instead about parties. Why there are good ones and why there are bad ones, and what we, the hosts and guests, have to do with it all.
I hosted a party tonight. Even though parts of it were successful—some people had fun, there was a twinkle-lit arch under which people were photographed, I had the best costume I have ever had and was mercifully unself-conscious through the night—I didn’t have what I would call Fun. If the party were my student I’d fail it.
Why? I was newly separated when I hosted the same party last year; the hurts and surprises and pleasures were only four months old. That party, as I recall (and maybe that’s important–memory!) was gollops of fun. There was something invigorating about that crude lifestuff. When you have more edges than you do substance, there’s an immediacy to how you greet the people around you. Everything’s raw material; nothing’s cordoned off. Not husbands and wives, not class years, not age, not even profession. For a while, every boundary blurs and it becomes conceivable that you can meet every other person as just that: another brain. Like yours. In a body.
This year I plagued my party with categories. I never let my guests be; they labored under the dead weight of their social labels. It may not have helped that last year’s theme was explicitly childhood-focused (which is what our generation does best, right?) whereas this year’s theme was about weddings. Bad ones. The worst one ever, in fact. It might have been a mistake to frame the event this way. It could have shaped things. It created expectations. It may also have created discomfort. If we have been married, we know the difficulties of the wedding and want nothing more than to forget that parts that seemed to bode ill for us, according to the most pessimistic reading. What good can it do to remember these structures at a party? Especially one where we are explicitly pretending to be something other than what they are?
I mentally split the crowd into smaller and smaller groups, which determined what parts of me were available to them. The result was ungenerous. Kind of awful. I disliked a few people at the party, but none more than myself.