I wish I grew up in the era when people stayed at parties.
Maybe this is a myth, an urban legend, a product of elderly neuron sparks and sepia memory banks, but my grandma tells stories of the Bronx in the fifties, when she would come home from work at Lenox Hill Hospital. On the way home, she would stop with her girlfriends at Saks or Lord and Taylor, where they ogled the shoes they would snatch up on Friday when their paychecks arrived. Then, they would get on the train and sit on the orange and yellow plastic, hands folded over purses placed in laps, ankles crossed, until her stop, where she got off and walked home.
Let's say it was her cousin's birthday. She got dressed up, put on bright red lipstick and a hat, because people used to wear hats in that exciting way, like, you know what this outfit needs, really needs? A hat. And my grandpa would ring the buzzer, run up the stairs two at a time, and knock four times on her front door. Her mother, Kathleen, opened the door and welcomed him in, so charming, so young, so in love with her daughter. Together, they wrapped a new pair of leather gloves, tied a bright ruby red ribbon on the top, with silken loops, perfectly even. Then, they walked the eight blocks to Jim's apartment, where they'd settle in, say hello to their friends, my grandma would chat with the girlfriends she hadn't seen since three hours earlier about the things they'd chatted about three hours earlier, and they played records and played "parlor" games (even though there were really no parlors in the Bronx). The men drank heavily, and the women drank delicately, and they all laughed.
Last weekend, I went to my friend's birthday party. I got there early, gave her a present, which was a bottle of alcohol, because she's 19 years old and always wants me to buy her alcohol anyway, so I thought, might as well. A few of her friends started arriving, but I didn't know any of them, so I texted my other friend, who was at a bar down the street, which she said was full of people I knew and they were hilariously drunk and I would not, definitely not, want to miss this. So I said my goodbyes to birthday friend, who was already pleasantly tipsy and didn't seem to care I was leaving, and headed to the bar, where it turned out the drunk people were only sort of my friends, and they were more obnoxious than hilarious, but I had already trekked over, so I stayed for a drink. Bar friend looked at me after a while and waved her hand in front of my face, saying, "Hello? Anyone in there?"
I had been staring at my phone for a few minutes, but not even on purpose, just absentmindedly. Just as I shook the cobwebs out of my brain, my phone buzzed. Another friend texted me that I just had to come to the yard of this house downtown, where people were swinging on this crazy tire swing and it was amazing and like kindergarten and he was making so many new friends. So I said goodbye to bar friend, and headed over to the yard, where it turned out everyone was just really stoned, and the swing seemed like fun but also looked like a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I didn't have any interest in appearing in court as a witness. But just then, my phone lit up. It was birthday friend: You should tooootally come back, the party is amaaaaazing. I also had realized over the course of the night that I had left my scarf at the birthday party, so I figured it was a sign. I left yard friend and went back to the first party, arriving around 1 a.m. The majority of people had left, it seemed, because there was music playing loudly, streamers everywhere, weird lighting and the kind of atmosphere that only happens when a large crowd has left a room. A few people were left, sitting on the living room couch, playing cards. I grabbed my scarf, tucked wasted birthday Friend into bed, and went home.
What ever happened to committing to a party? I want to go to a party and know that I will be there all night, that I am in it for the long haul, that I am not backing out and most of all, that I am not looking for another, better party to go to. Furthermore, I want people around me to actually want to be at the party we're at: Imagine that! Gone are the days when people tried to make the best of an awkward situation, or strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn't have otherwise met. Instead, we go to parties to all sit in our respective corners and stare at our phones, waiting for something better to text us. I want you to look at me and think, this is the conversation I want to be in, this is the relationship I'm having right now, instead of worrying you'll miss out on something better.