As I casually surveyed a collection of friends around our age, I found out that most of them had no plans to leave their homes for New Year’s Eve. We all apparently have kids and no burning desire to get a DWI, so it makes sense, I suppose. But after several years of turning in around 10pm after enjoying a SpongeBob Marathon, The Wife & I took up the offer to celebrate the occasion with some friends and a bunch of strangers at a costume party.
Normally, and up until our 30’s, this would not be an attractive option. When gathering in large groups, people like to enjoy the company of others that they already know; hanging out with strangers leads to many a party you attended in younger days being categorized as “lame”. We sullenly stand around, the girls all looking as though they’d rather be anywhere else in the world but here, the boys glowering at those they don’t know, silently sizing up the others’ capacity for violence, should a fight spontaneously break out. The tension is not broken by the cheap beer, at least until there’s a common rallying point: the cops get called, someone breaks a bone, there’s a loud and emotional breakup taking place in the kitchen. Then we left before anyone took the time to get to know one another, always in search of that elusive party featured in most raunchy teen comedies, the party that never happened.
So what do we do?
We stick with our own, then we grow up and have kids and focus on the merits of letting The Wiggles into our daily lives. Pretty soon, it’s just easier to remain home and reminisce about parties which were, quite frankly, lame. As people barreling towards our forties, we now consider two pints of beer on a Wednesday night at home really cutting loose, which is a tragic waste of potential, not to mention the ability to purchase quality alcohol, finally.
When the people started to gather at this party, as expected, segregation of the various attendees ensued. This time, though, something was different, and I think it comes with age. Instead of than being deterred by this, we chose to look at it through a different lens. Rather than rolling eyes and looking for an exit, we let the vodka swirl in our tumblers a little longer, we took tentative steps into the kitchen full of strangers, and the casual prediction was made that after another round or two, we’d all end up friends for life, if not the night.
And it pretty much went down, just like that. I’ve sworn to keep the details secret to protect the not-so-innocent, but it was fun behaving even more immaturely than usual.
THIS is one of the few joys of aging: wisdom borne of experience, of heartbreak and failure and, most importantly, patience. Wikipedia (the most trusted source of the lazy) defines panache as “a word of French origin that carries the connotation of a flamboyant manner and reckless courage”. By simply combining patience with some reckless attempts at courage and ridiculous costumes, we’re finally able to bridge that awkward stranger-gap that has characterized just about every party I’ve attended since my first bonfire on the beach in 1988. That’s all it took to take a casual party up to the next level of memorable.
That, and a decent vodka.