Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Seven People You'll Meet at the Cocktail Party of the Damned

Lemmonex wrote a great post yesterday about manners. Basically, her point is this: HAVE SOME. I’d like to add on to her peeves by teaching y’all something you should already know. That is, how to be a good party guest.

I’m something of an expert at this. Not only am I an irredeemable partier, I’m a recovering diplomat’s wife, and throw at least a dozen gatherings per year in my 481-square foot studio. Cramming up to 30 people in my place and having it still be fun takes a LOT of creativity and know-how.

Because I’m sure all of you want to be my friend, chill on my sofa, and avail yourselves of the Shangria, let me share with you my Seven People I’ll Meet at the Cocktail Party of the Damned*. These are the guests that send even the most charming, laid-back hostess into shrieking fits. A party of all of these folks combined would get me to hang up my hostess hat forever:

1. The Unannounced Entourage. Some folks can’t go anywhere without their half-dozen closest friends. Cool. The more the merrier. But if you’re going to double my party population on zero notice, bring some extra beers. Also, don’t spend the whole evening sequestered on the balcony with the little clique you walked in with - that's just snobby.

2. The Guest List Cop. These people drive you nuts before the party’s even started. They go over your guest list with a baleful eye and complain that they don’t exactly approve of your choices. Don’t like everyone who will be there? Think you’re incapable of a cordial hello and a hasty retreat to another corner of the room? Spend your Saturday night somewhere else. This should be quite basic, here: you don’t have the right to tell me who I can and can’t invite to my own home. I mean, really.

3. The TwitterBits. These folks twaddle their thumbs across their keyboards the whole time they’re over. It’s one thing to check in with your ride, place a bet with your bookie, or ask your secretary to line up your booty call. But why spend the whole evening glued to a machine? Why not just stay home and make sweet, sweet love to your laptop?

4. The High-Maintenance Helpmate. I love when people offer to bring an appetizer or a dessert. Especially desserts, as I hate to bake. But please don’t bring something that requires tons of fridge space (I have, like, none to spare), destroy the kitchen (it’s already gonna be revolting), or involve lots of prep (in my tiny kitchen). Just bring a plate of cookies instead.

5. The Eeyore Extravaganza. We all have bad days. However, if you have 1,000 bad days in a row, and spend the entire party bitching mightily to anyone who will listen, don’t expect a return invite. My home is my refuge, and, hell, it’s a refuge for anyone who wants to come over, relax and have a good time. Don’t take that away from us.

6. The High-Maintenance Momma. Bring your baby. I will happily hold it for you, and swear I won’t use its first tooth to crack open my bottle of Bud Light. Just don’t bring the super-extra-double-large SUV stroller, the fourteen bags of equipment, and the 27 buckets of food. A carseat, diaper bag and a few toys and snacks will suffice for a short visit.

7. The Robin Leech. This person sees parties as a venue for personal gain. They corner guests regarding the latest marketing strategy, or, even better, they’re disappointed when things aren’t as posh as they’d prefer. I serve Yeungling in a can because that’s what I can afford in mass quantities – the average party costs me around $200, and that's if I stick to the generic Cheetos. If you’re fussy about brands, BYOB.

Since I hate to end on a negative note, here are my Seven Guests Who Can Always Come Back:

1. The Iceman. Most often, Foggy, who knows I can’t fit more than two bags of ice in my freezer. So he brings extras for the booze bucket.

2. The Chauffeur. My friend Rowena often gives me a lift to the store the day of the party. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen two pocket-sized women haul 10 bags of food and three cases of beer down a hallway in a series of high-energy sprints.

3. The Early Bird. Nothing makes me happier than when a friend offers to show up a half-hour early and help me set up. Or, hell, just keeps me company while I knock out a few last-minute kitchen tasks.

4. The Slumber Party Guests. If you can’t get home, stay over! Many of my parties devolve into four or five people sprawled across sofas and air mattresses, asking one another about the meaning of life. Or, just as often, the sexual proclivities of Scooby-Doo. I'd rather you crash than drive home drunk, take over an hour to find a cab, or stumble onto the third rail on the Metro. Don't worry - I'll still respect you in the morning.

5. The Magi. That is, anyone who brings me a gift. One of the sweetest hostess gifts I ever got was from HP. It was a hangover kit with a little bottle of champagne, some orange juice, Alka-Seltzer, and Gatorade.

6. The Mingler. This person makes so many circuits of the room that my head starts to spin, and eventually becomes even more popular than me. Bonus points if the Mingler seeks out folks who seem a little out-of-place, and makes an effort to include them. That saves me a lot of effort.

7. Anyone who sends a thank-you email. I love being a hostess, but yes, it’s a lot of hard work, time, and money. Anyone who appreciates the effort is going to get a return invitation.

In short, anybody who makes my life easier, not harder, is going to be welcome. Or really anybody who doesn't suck and knows how to have a good time.

In the comments, tell me what kind of party guest you are.

*If you’re my friend, and you see yourself on this list, don’t worry – you have to rack up a LOT of demerits before I drop you off the party roster.


Brett said...

I'm the guest comes early to help you cook, and then eats all the cupcake. But I do provide my own wine.

Anonymous said...

I am the mingler, that brings the bottle of Vodka. Come on everyone likes vodka, right?

Shannon said...

Brett - Bonus points if there's drunken naked cake wrestling!

justjp - And the more vodka you have, the more you mingle! Brilliant.

Lemmonex said...

I do my best to mingle. I can talk to just about anyone.

What is up with the entourage folks? We are adults. We don't need a security blanket.

Shannon said...

Lem - Usually it's just a case of a group of friends grab dinner, everyone's talking about where to go next, and someone pipes in with, "My friend Shannon is having a party. Wanna go?" In which case, the more the merrier. Just grab some extra beer on the way over - a hostess' worst nightmare is running out of booze.

Malnurtured Snay said...

"I'd rather you crash than drive home drunk,"

isn't that usually what happens when they drive home drunk?

Brando said...

I'm the guy who helps out with the fridge-space problem by drinking as much of the beer as I can. You're welcome!

Shannon said...

Snay - Yes, but the metaphorical crash is the far better kind.

Brando - The issue is that after you drink all my beer, you typically start assigning random nicknames. As "Knife," I hereby thank you for your efforts.

Tina said...

I must be a great guest. I can talk to anyone and usually end up "working" the party by checking on food, collecting and cleaning up empties, fetching needed items etc. I always bring hostess gifts and send thank you notes and RSVP. I rarely bring my child to events - and never if he was not specifically invited. He requires minimal gear - wipes and diapers only - he eats anything.

Oh and I will never ever bring my black berry to a party or drive drunk.

How come you never have me over?

Hammer said...

I'm the guest that piles all your drunk last-callers into MAH TRUK and gets them home so they don't have to fight over sections of floor to pass out on. This is my pennance for forgetting to bring ice, even though I said I would.

FoggyDew said...

I love my new nickname. Very Val Kilmer-ish. Glad I don't resemble any of the first seven...right?

Heather said...

I fully admit being a Ms. Twitterbody(on occasion especially when sloshed), I think that is in the second ring of party guest hell? ha. For the most part though I try to uphold the values my mother gave me in her stringent manners training camp aka thank you notes, don't come empty handed to a party, don't chomp your food(def pet peeve), be polite(please and thank you's) ect. ect.

bh said...

I'm a slumber party guest, and I reciprocate at my house. I LOVE sleepover guests. There is something about bonding hungover with bacon/egg/and cheese sandwiches, coffee, and gatorade that brings a good party to it's natural denoument.

And I love the earlybird. Best guest ever.

Shannon said...

Tina - How come you never have ME over? Huh?

Hammer - You forgot the ice AGAIN? Now everybody's gonna have to drink warm beer.

Foggy - Val Kilmer? Just don't stink up a Batman movie, and we're cool.

Heather - Oh, you wacky kids and your teeny-tiny keyboards!

bh - I love the morning after, when everyone just sort of slurps coffee and tries desperately to reconstruct the previous evening.

Tina said...

We're doing a party labor day weekend. Its Thomas the Train themed - but I just kow you'll rock the red bandanna and striped engineers hat.

f.B said...

I think I'm a Mingler.

And the solution to the Entourage-on-the-balcony problem is to have an unmarked, shaky railing. Nothing says "stop being obnoxious" like risk of serious bodily harm.

Just A Girl said...

I'm the one who will always bring anything needed, but I'm always a little late so if you need it *immediately* I'm not so hot. I try to be a mingler but if it's people I don't know well, I get shy and tend to retreat to a corner and tweet/text/fb just because my phone is a security blanket.

Kelsey said...

I am a mingler, though I also tend to eat more than my share of the food while doing so.

Alex said...

Another problematic guest is the opposite of your number 6. Call him the Unmingler. This is the guest that comes to your party expecting to talk to *you* all night, makes no effort to mingle with your friends, leaves you feeling awkward when you keep tearing yourself away to tend to other guests, and acts miffed when you do so.

And I love the early bird (or on-time bird) as long as they warn of their earliness -- besides helping out, it's great to have someone to hang out with until the fashionably late peeps arrive.

Dmbosstone said...

"Also, don’t spend the whole evening sequestered on the balcony with the little clique you walked in with - that's just snobby."

I fully agree- that's why I try to talk to everyone at a party...

Zandria said...

Love this list!

I DID NOT SEND YOU A THANK YOU EMAIL FOR YOUR LAST PARTY. Boy, do I feel like a tool. In my defense, I left for Montana the next day and my thoughts have been far away from DC ever since.

Y'know I love your parties and hope to attend many more. :)

Shannon said...

Tina - Do I get to wear overalls, too? Please?

f.B. - Then I lose all my smokers, too! But then I'd have a concrete example to tell my hypothetical children (Union Carbide and Enron) when I say, "Smoking kills!"

JAG - I usually keep an eye out for anyone hiding in a corner, and try to drag them into a conversation.

Kelsey - One of my guests Friday managed to go through nearly three bowls of homemade salsa. I took it as a compliment.

Alex - Ooooh, I hate it when someone monopolizes the host! I rarely get to sit down, let alone get in a long conversation with just one person.

Dmbosstone - After all, if you just talk to the people you came with, why not just stay home with them?

Zan - And you are always, always welcome!

FoggyDew said...

Val played Iceman in Top Gun. "That's how he flies: ice cold. No mistakes."

Jamie said...

Maybe this doesn't come up for you so much, but the absolute worst one I can think of is the "party early and often" guy (or girl). You know, they show up before the party's even started, already drunk, and won't leave. Even when shown the door. Twice.

Marissa said...

Honestly, that is way too many rules for me. I would probably be a horrible guest at your party. I'd rather not feel pressured to make conversation with guests I may not find interesting. And vice versa. I'd rather sit in the corner and drink by myself than have an annoying "mingler" try to talk to me about something I'm completely uninterested in. Then again, I hate people more than most.

BUT, I did bring a bag of Oreos to the last party I attended. That's pretty good.

Shannon said...

Foggy - And that's also how you party. Awesome.

Jamie - Can't say I've been in that particular scenario. I've occasionally had someone show up an hour early, and instead of offering to pitch in, expects me to entertain them. Ack!

Marissa - Lucky for you, I usually get a drop-by from Vladimir Putin. Sure, he shows up shirtless, but he's always interesting to chat with.

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