[This piece is a revised version of a piece that I read for the Self-Publishers of Chicago’s (SPOC) 3rd Birthday Party]
I have always loved parties from the time my mom bought me a fuchsia, glittery, poofy, chiffon dress when I was three for my dad’s ordination; to my piñata-filled, strawberry shortcake birthdays; to spending summer days in the coolness of a disco-lit roller rink.
In high school, I went to a total of 2 parties and they mostly revolved around a heroin addict named Mick in whom I had displaced an unnecessary amount of affection. I met Mick at the first party; his allure was a combination of Mexican Billy Idol chic and the detached attitude of a habitual drug user. For the second party of my high school career, I had somehow managed to get invited to a popular girl’s house, whose parents were, of course, out of town. I brought Mick on my arm and he promptly proceeded to nod off on the living room couch while I drank trash can punch, ate Jell-O shots, and then washed it all down with some tequila.
Mick was rudely awakened by me vomiting on him. I was forced to run into the backyard in order to finish emptying my stomach as the cacophony of all the bathrooms being occupied by other partygoers rose to a frenzy around us. It was like the Feast of the Bacchi, sponsored by Everclear. Needless to say, I was never invited back again.
I soon came to understand more about the party dynamic in college and my experiences at parties became increasingly more positive. Thankfully, I was friends with actual cool people and not just the “popular” kids, which didn’t really exist in college anyway. The most memorable of the parties was the brilliant “Red Party” where everyone was invited to wear red clothing or bring a red prop. All of the light bulbs were red and so was the decor. A Chinese friend of mine brought a “Mao Bible”, although I’m still not sure how serious he might have been about that, but he certainly thought it was funny and appropriate.
I’m not sure how long the party went on before it was broken up by the cops but I do remember the exhilaration of running down the back staircase into a dark, damp alley with untold others, breathing heavily and laughing at our escape. Whenever I throw parties, I take some elements from that party, an amalgamation of color, theme, and weird fun people minus the running and the cops.
Not only can parties give you clues about the people with whom you like to surround yourself, they can also tell you things about yourself that you may not have known. Later on in college, I started to get invited to cocktail parties with much more stylish clothing, better music, fashionable drinks, and less raging. It took me two weekends in a row, surrounded by all gay men and me being the only female-identifying person that I had officially become that wonderful creature known as a fag hag. It was also the same party where I mingled with graduate students and my professors. Because of the fabulous person that I was becoming, I had been allowed into this inner sanctum of tweed coats, intellectual and delightfully catty conversation. It was like coming home and I have never really left.
The parties of my 20s, post-college, were a blurry, smeary mess of one-night stands, 4-month-long boyfriends, and fending off hangovers by napping on the roof of my job in lieu of taking lunch. This is where I explored the extent of my philosophy of “going where the night takes you.” I was spontaneous, irresponsible (like riding my bike drunk), free from the worries of paying rent on time (thanks to a very generous and forgiving roommate). It was in my 20s that I probably sowed at least a few wild oats.
There’s nothing like entering your 30s and on your way to becoming an adult to ruin a good partying streak. It’s not just getting older with shifting priorities that happens, but your body also refuses to be treated like it was in your 20s and earlier. There are days when you know that you have to wake up early the next morning and you refuse to be crippled by several day-long hangovers (if you can help it). You may have an actual career, instead of just a job, and you care more about not being brain dead during the week. Some of your favorite partying buddies start to have children. You are forced to start adding alcohol to as many life advancements as possible, most notably at baby showers and funerals. Spontaneity comes so few and far between that you have to snatch it when you can in between responsibilities and demanding schedules.
Life increasingly becomes more and more “boring” and let me tell you, it is AWESOME. I say this because “boring” often goes hand in hand with stable. The idea of what constitutes a good time evolves. Sometimes, you really like to be in bed by 10:30, albeit with a bottle of wine, your cuddly cat, and Netflix binging. Partying has become less about meeting exciting new strangers than it is about spending time with people you know are a good time whether or not they are new parents, freshly divorced, or only in town for a few days of their jet-setting lifestyle. I’m looking forward to partying in my 40s where I am envisioning hammocks and naps. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a somewhat out of control rager, but I don’t feel the need to stay until the bitter end to see where my life will turn next. When you know that you have nothing to prove because you’ve been there and done that, it is the most liberating feeling in the world. Plus, there’s always day drinking.