Party Sociology, Dead of Winter Edition


Usually January is a pretty dead month, socially—everyone’s dieting or abstaining or working or paying off credit cards or whatever penance they require after the holidays. Plus below freezing temperatures tend to inhibit going out. So maybe it’s the abnormally balmy weather so far this year, but my January has been really busy. I dunno if you guys are finding this to be the case too, but I’ve had lots of parties and things to go to. Not that I’m bragging. I’m a pretty agoraphobic individual during the winter months, so social engagements are a mixed blessing.

On any given evening, either Frank or I will be in a grumpy, hibernate-y mood and require dragging to whatever thing it is that is going on. There’s just so much inertia when it gets dark so early and chilly and often rainy and I don’t know. I get depressed in the winter. I think it’s from growing up in such a sunny place (San Antonio)—maybe I’m more prone to seasonal affected disorder.

But whatever. That is not the point. After a month of holiday-based parties, going to a bunch of birthday parties or other celebrations focused on a person rather than an event made me notice how little you see someone when they are having a party. Perhaps that is a really obvious idea. If so, sorry. It’s just that when I’m feeling like maybe I could just skip out on a friend’s birthday and stay home and play Wii instead, usually my reason for getting up off the couch is that I want to spend time with the person whose birthday it is.

Or I think that they would be angry if I’d agreed to go to their party and didn’t. After all, nothing is worse than having nobody show up at your big blowout party. The funny thing, though, is that one rarely actually gets to spend any time with the guest of honor, because he or she is busy talking all of the other people who came to celebrate their birthday.

Same with weddings, though even more so since the couple is pretty much beholden to the two families rather than their friends. Which is fine and makes complete sense and everything, but just makes me realize that I should judge which parties are skippable and which ones I should definitely get my lazy ass to based not on the person throwing the party, but on that person’s other friends. And also the likely quality of their snacks. Don’t underestimate the importance of good snacks.

The other party-related phenomenon I’ve been thinking about—especially now that I am of an age and milieu where most parties I go to are attended by more couples than single people—is what it says about a party when most of the couples hang out in pairs, as opposed to separating off into a mixture.

Frank and I have been dating for nearly five years, so it’s not like I usually stick by him at social functions because I’m worried I might miss a hilarious anecdote or important fact about his life. I guess generally circulating groups of pairs indicates a lower comfort level with the other guests than split pairs. Although sometimes things just split along gender lines and then you feel awkward not going to the appropriate gender’s side, even if you don’t like any of the other girls as much as the boys.

Also, at parties with lots of people you both know and like, you can cover more ground if you split up and then compare notes later. It’s overwhelming to see a bunch of people you haven’t seen in a long time, and it always makes me sad not to be able to catch up with everyone. Having two representatives from your team can double the number of people you can collectively get reacquainted with.

But on the other hand, if most of the pairs at a party are “couple friends,” and hang out generally in double date sort of situations, then even a very high level of comfort with the other guests won’t split the pairs up. It’s interesting, to me, how that stuff works. I think I tend to have the most fun at parties where couples split up and reform throughout the evening. It feels less stuffy to me.

I have no idea how to apply these observations to throwing a better party. I wish my research had more practical applications, because all these other parties are making me think Frank and I should have a winter get-together of some kind, to help further delay the annual mass hibernation. Perhaps good parties are just happy accidents. Although it’s difficult to overstate the importance of good snacks.