The Cocktail Party
Submitted by Sydney Holmes on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 13:24
I love people. I love listening to their stories, hearing about their lives, and joining their adventures. However, I’m a party participant fail. I’m great one on one and I love hanging out with a group of people. But, what I haven’t mastered is the cocktail party.
In fact, I have a long history of silencing parties. And by that, I mean the entire room goes silent trying to figure out how to recover from some social gaff I have just committed. So I’m a little wary of these events.
My first major social blunder was actually in the presence of a famous person. At the ripe old age of 22, I somehow got invited to Betty Friedan’s house for a cocktail party with dinner to follow. My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I were thrilled to be in such company. We arrived to an intimate group of about ten guests, mostly women. Let me just say that they loved my husband. He charmed them with his stories of life abroad and his work in the new and upcoming environmental movement. (Yes, it was a long time ago).
I was perfectly happy listening to the conversation and thoroughly enjoying the stories he was sharing. However, all good things must come to an end and sure enough some poor soul decided to try to bring me into the fold.
“And what is it that you do?” She asked me.
“I’m getting a master’s degree in education and teaching preschool.” I responded proudly.
The room became perfectly still as thundering silence filled the air. For a long, excruciatingly slow 60 seconds no one said a thing. And then there was a grunting noise from somewhere in the room followed by someone asking my boyfriend another question about his life. I guess it made sense that being a preschool teacher didn’t live up to the aspirations of a room of hardcore feminists, but the reaction was more in line with my having admitted to sleeping around. Now that I think about it, sleeping around might have been better received as it would have shown the strength of my womanhood. Oh well, like they say, know your audience.
After a long line of similarly painful events, I declared myself unfit for large social gatherings most especially the cocktail party. But last year my husband declared that my moratorium needed to come to an end. We quickly found ourselves on several invite lists for parties and events. The first one was an outdoor event with lots of people I didn’t know – a perfect place for me to get my feet wet. It went smashingly well. I even found myself flirting with two men while my husband was occupied with business contacts. Ha, teach him to leave me alone a party!
After that screaming success I thought I was ready for the big leagues, the cocktail party. My husband was a little worried as we approached our first one, after all we knew people there and he didn’t want to offend them. He squeezed my hand as we walked up. “Don’t worry.” I told him. “I got this!”
Did I silence the room? No. Did I somehow offend the people around me by answering some random question incorrectly? Not at all. Will I ever go to a cocktail party again? No. Why you ask – well I’ll tell you. About mid way through the sip and chat portion of the evening, I found myself in the middle of a discussion about the benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar seemed like a pretty safe topic so I joined the conversation and listened to the advice the nice lady was handing out. I learned that apple cider vinegar can cure all kinds of things, stomach problems, toe fungus and vaginal itching.
Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Did that woman just say vaginal itching really loud in the middle of this cocktail party? Yep. She did. Um, is this happening to me? I looked around to see if anyone else was reacting to our bizarre conversation. No one seemed to have noticed. And then I started laughing. I couldn’t help it; this was too much! I can’t answer a question about my teaching career without silencing a room, but this woman can discuss the details about the best douching solutions right here in this room and no one bats an eye?
That’s when I knew. I knew that it wasn’t really the topics of discussion that got me in trouble, it was just me. I barely held it together during that fateful night and had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing out loud hysterically. When I finally extracted myself, I feigned a call from my kids and hid in the bathroom trying to recover.
The good news is that I did not commit social sin and silence the room – progress! The bad news? I don’t think I will ever master the art of the cocktail party. But after the last one, I’m good with that.