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Party Hardly
On a frigid evening last winter, my husband and I went to a housewarming party. It was given by a 20-something-year-old colleague. I haven't been to a party hosted by a person that age since ... does my wedding count?

I learned a few things about how that generation does parties. First off, to weed out B-list guests, they give vague directions. Anyone vital to the party already knows where it is.

"Place: D.C., near the Metro."

Clearly, we were not vital. After reading the invitation 347 times, in an array of volumes, tones and languages (e.g., colorful), we stopped for directions. The apartment building was hidden within a large complex, something gleaned from a few bystanders/witnesses watching a nearby drug bust. It was then that I regretted not having our housewarming gift delivered by Brinks.

Limited parking is Part II of the weeding-out process. Invitees who aren't within walking distance or Metro access are losers deserving an I-didn't-think-they'd-actually-come invitation.

We finally found street parking about a mile away. On the bright side, it was ... who am I kidding? There is no bright side to parking a mile away. Ever.

Years of simple, dull, just-off-the-parkway suburban travel have spoiled me. "Third house on the left, park in the driveway." Now that's a party. I don't care if it's the worst party since Communism; if the directions are clear and the parking is hassle-free, I'm in.

I marched alongside my husband in the freezing January night air, childishly repeating, "I want to go home," clutching our housewarming gift as though it were actually warm, and imagining my purse was a time machine that I'd set back two hours. Make that five hours -- I'd need time to successfully fake an illness.

My husband, on the other hand, spent the walk asking questions. "Come on, are you really that cold?" "What else did you have to do tonight, watch Top Model?" Answer: yes and yes, after parking myself, quite easily I might add, on the couch.

When we finally arrived, my frozen lip gloss had formed a seal. I hummed a singsong greeting and straight-armed our gift to the hostess. It seems that a vase is a quaint, albeit decrepit, gift. I believe the young lady described it as "super cute" while holding it up high for all to see, Lion King style. Everyone else's housewarming gifts came in six-packs.

Although I couldn't speak until my Cover Girl thawed, it didn't matter. Nobody would have heard me, because this generation likes their parties jet-engines-can't-hear-themselves-think loud. The noise from the crowd was so astounding, I had to ask how many people were invited. Although I am prone to exaggeration, I kid you not: The hostess and her roommate invited 200 people. It's no wonder the bystanders/witnesses, arresting officers and drug dealer knew where the party was. They were invited, too.

Just in case the noise emanating from this small village didn't fill every inch of the two-bedroom apartment, the stereo was set to stun. Even so, the only music to my ears was on the balcony, where there was space to move, relative quiet (which reduced eardrum swelling), and red plastic cups. I had a frozen daiquiri. Then again, everything was frozen, including the expression on my face.

I eased into a pattern of stepping outside to save my hearing, then going inside to save appearances. Conversations were nose-to-nose shouting matches, like this one with a guy named Tom, John or Ron.

Me: "SO, WHERE DO YOU LIVE?"

T/J/R: "IN BALLSTON."

Me: "BOSTON?"

T/J/R: "BALLSTON."

Me: "IS IT COLD IN BOSTON?"

T/J/R: "UH, YEAH."

Me: "BALCONY TIME."

Next time I'm invited to a party hosted by someone under 30, I'll be prepared: detailed directions, small earplugs, cold six-pack, good excuse.


[April 29, 2009]

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