RealLife™ Dating Guidelines Part III: Parties
I love parties. I have not always loved them. When I was eight, I had a birthday party that effectively ended when I hit my best friend's cousin over the head with the board from the Concentration game. I burst into tears of rage and humiliation and went to my room. What can I say? I got jealous.
The parties in junior high were pretty fun. Sometime I'll tell you about the very thorough kissing game we invented. I can't tell you about high school parties because I didn't go to high school.
I started loving parties in college. Why? Because there were boys there. It's all about the boys. I didn't mind the beer and the dancing and even the smoking--that was all fun too. But for me it was 99% about the boys. And they never called me boy crazy! Isn't that funny? I was always rather collected and I went after what I wanted. I often got it--or I got something that I thought was it and turned out not to be. I thought I wanted a boyfriend and instead I usually got a kiss. I sure kissed a lot of boys at parties when I was in college.
I never, ever turn down an invitation--that's the first rule: go to every party to which you are invited. Here is a summary of how to maximize the boy-meeting experience:
When you first get there, try and get the lay of the land. If you have to leave your coat somewhere that is a good chance to walk through the house. I usually head straight to the kitchen, get a drink and then make a complete circuit. This includes going out back where the smokers are. Make periodic circuits throughout the night.
You will, of course, talk to any friends you have. But keep scanning the crowd. Anyone cute? Is he single? If you are "stuck" with your friends, excuse yourself and go get a snack or go to the bathroom. Bathroom lines are a good place to meet people. If you strike up a conversation with someone in line, you might have an opportunity to talk to him again later.
Use guideline number 1, proximity, and get within talking distance of anyone who looks good. You don't necessarily need to say anything. Just get close. If he won't make eye contact, move along, he is not interested. If he makes eye contact, but is too shy to start the conversation, that would be a good time to say hi.
I have a tendency to get into pretty intense, involved conversations at parties. I think it may scare some guys off. While I'm confident I won't ever do it, I will advise you to keep the conversation short. Intense and serious is just fine, you do want to get to know this guy after all, but find reasons to go away. Like, "I need to check on my friends," or, "Do you know where the bathroom is?" or, "I think I need another drink." And take your time getting back to him. He may come and find you. I try to play the "will he come and find me" game at least once with every guy I meet at a party. Or, if he's not interested, he may offer to get you another beer, bring it back and then take off. Don't go find him. If you love someone (or are developing a huge crush), set him free.
The best parties are where you will find many strangers. Parties where you know everyone suck, unless it's a dinner party. But, see, it's all about expectations. When I say party, I mean big, rocking house party. Ideally, there is a keg, but a well-stocked fridge will do.
I'll go to the more recent past for this example. I have lots of examples from college, but here is one that happened when I was 31. My point? I haven't lost it baby! (Actually, there is an example in this blog too, though it didn't pan out. It yielded a phone number, though.)
It was my first year in DC and I'd met a guy named Chris on the Peter Pan bus to New York. We had a great time talking. I knew Chris was married because he was wearing an enormous gold ring. He didn't bother to mention it, but since I knew, it was cool. I did talk to him after we were both back in DC and he finally got around to telling me about his wife, who was living in France (yes, she was French). We hung out a little and after promising to do so several times, finally, in January, Chris took me to a party.
It was in a big house in Mt. Pleasant. Funky neighborhood where all the cool kids live. It's also where I lived with my parents for one year when I was in the sixth grade, so I know my way around. It was a big group house. I dumped my coat on a big pile by the front door--nothing worse than being saddled with a big heavy winter coat during a party. I found myself with my back to the wall talking to Chris and some random friends of his (a couple). I felt stuck…I wanted to move around the party, but I couldn't get away from them politely. I remember seeing this one guy as he crossed through the living room on the way to the back of the house (and, presumably, the kitchen). When I saw him I thought, "That one. That's the one I want--too bad he would never look at me." I was feeling very frumpy that night. I hadn't changed and I was wearing loose corduroy pants (from Land's End) and a grey ribbed long sleeve top from The Gap. My hair was long, in a pony tail, very dark brown (still is, just a few more strands of grey). I was looking...plain. No make-up, but there hardly ever is. I suppose I weighed about the same then as I do now...maybe a couple of pounds less. Which meant I was not feeling thin. (I am not thin. I am overweight, but not so you'd notice; I carry the "extra" weight well. My face is thin-ish. I have a long neck. Well-defined waist. Usually I dress well. I can't stand to devote many words to my weight. I don't need to be reassured about it because I know what I look like. I look good. I could stand to lose weight, but I'm doing just fine.)
Anyway, I managed to break free from my conversational group of completely unavailable people in order to get a beer. I went back to the kitchen. There was no beer. I wandered downstairs to the basement. There were two fridges down there and both had beer. And the guy was there.
I found myself squeezed into a tiny spot at the end of the staircase, next to the fridges, surrounded by three good-looking guys. For some reason, when we introduced ourselves we all used fake names. I think that was the cute boy's (Matt) suggestion. He kept giving me "the look." You know what the look is, right? Sustained eye contact. It means: I want to have sex with you. Maybe it also means "I like you." But mostly, it's about sex.
Matt was giving me the look, but I couldn't quite believe it. This guy? This very cute, very dangerous looking guy was giving frumpy, plump, hair-in-ugly-pony-tail me, "the look?" Nah. That couldn't be. (I'm not saying that I'm not pretty. I'm pretty. But, sexy? It always feels like bit of a stretch. That night especially.)
As I said, there were three guys there. One was Dan, a friend of Matt's. He flirted, but not that much (presumably out of respect for his friend--Matt later told me Dan liked me too. I dunno). The third guy was just a random guy. I found myself in the middle of a little flirting tug of war. This has happened to me before, but not that often (I doubt it happens to anyone very often). When it does happen, it is not actually very much fun, not in small part because it's hard to believe that it's actually going on. Not these super cute young guys--fighting over little ol' me? Nah. That made no sense. I just focused on Matt. He was the object of my affection. Eventually he said he was going back upstairs and asked me if I was coming. I said yes and I followed him. I followed him upstairs and right out of that party. It didn't happen quite that quickly, but it did happen. Dan, Matt, two women (don't remember their names) and I walked a couple of blocks over to Dan's place. Everyone got stoned, except for me (I think). We had a hilarious good time. I clicked like hell with Matt. I had a fun time talking to Dan. I already knew what I was going to do--stay with Matt as long as possible. Before they left one of the two women asked me repeatedly if I was ok and if I wanted to go over to her place to spend the night. I kept telling her I was fine. I stage whispered to Matt that she was awfully worried about me, but that I knew where I was going to spend the night.
I spent the night with Matt. No, I didn't have sex (by any definition) with him. I kissed him and slept restlessly on a too small bed.
I often refer to Matt as my crazy alcoholic boyfriend because that's what he was. We dated for about two months. Remember all that stuff I wrote about not being skinny? It turned out that Matt was attracted to my curves. He used to rave about them. That might have kept me in it a little bit longer than I would have stayed otherwise. This is one of the few cases where a guy I met at a party actually ended up being my boyfriend (even if it were a particularly ill-advised relationship).
Grateful for: learning how to recognize ill-advised relationships and still really enjoying parties, whenever and wherever I find them.