As a general rule, I detest parties. I'm not really shy; I can deliver a substantive lecture to hundreds without any qualms, but ask me to make small talk at a barbeque and I'll try everything to evade the event. However, the current barrage of bad business news and personal penny-pinching left me yearning to just sit and chatter about utterly inconsequential matters. Where I formerly listened half-heartedly to complaints about lazy spouses and tasty recipes calling for turmeric, now my hankering for a few hours of trivial talk was palpable!
But this is 2009, the year all the world's toxic chickens finally came home to roost in a foreclosed henhouse, and I've become obsessed with finding new ways to stretch a bottle of shampoo. Thus, my party would have to be a spare celebration of women's friendship centered on the trendiest of recession-inspired themes: swapping. Invitations went out and more than a dozen friends, ages 23-83, were instructed to bring a book they'd read and enjoyed in order to exchange it for other guests' reading material.
The table was quickly piled high with books and swapping ensued. "Chick-lit" and thrillers were snapped up, but so was the works of Ayn Rand and Betty Friedan. My daughter scored the I Love Lucy Cookbook and I don't think my David Sedaris books lingered for more than a moment on the stacked offerings before they went into a friend's shopping bag.
The time was filled with questions that started out about the books, followed by answers (and advice) that encompassed much more. What were 20-somethings reading? Why does a woman who has been out of grade school for 40 years have a series of joke books with the word "gross" in the title? I've had a lot of stress lately: is this book too depressing for me? I haven't been sleeping lately: may I take a bunch of books to occupy my time? What's funny? Does a child or an animal die in this book? What's really, really funny?
Along with all the freely swapped books I offered a bean salad (coincidentally spiced with turmeric) that stretched to fill up the plates of lots of women. But what was really in my home on a recent Sunday was a gathering of people laughing and enjoying each others' company as they escaped from their burdens for an afternoon. And when they departed, my guests left me with a bit more strength to face whatever comes my way for the rest of 2009, buoyed up by friendship and some really great free books.