I was first to arrive at the Sparkle Holiday Party, in a black Blanche Devereaux-inspired top covered in gold sequins and mini pearls. It was prime celebration time—a Friday night in mid-December—and there was electricity in the air.
As the crowd grew in size, the night ramped up and so did I. My gestures grew more and more animated. The pitch of my laughter rose. More girls arrived donning glitter. Old Fashioneds were ordered, passed, and inhaled.
My husband, who worked nights at the time, called at around 11 p.m.
“Hey! Wanna come have a drink?!” I shouted above the bar’s percolating clamor.
“No,” he said. “I’m locked out of the apartment. You took the spare key.”
“Oh! Damn. Okay.”
I moved outside to hear him better. As patrons exited the bar, heat and sound spilled onto the sidewalk. My husband was annoyed; my top was reflecting traffic lights.
“You sure you don’t want to come here, have a drink, and we’ll leave together?”
“No,” he said. “Just come home.”
I agreed to leave promptly, but not before pausing outside the entrance, contemplating how long I could draw out my goodbyes. Would I go as far as to lie to my new friends about how long it took me to get home? Or, conversely, to lie to my husband about my time of departure, so I could make room for some killer final moments at the Sparkle Party? What was I going to miss if I left now?
Before the night was truly over, I’d left my credit card at the bar, given away all my cash, tried repeatedly to pay for things without money, and spewed, through tears, fighting words at my husband.
I should have just stayed at the Sparkle Party, right?
I’ve been raging against the dying of light my whole life. And yes, there’s a pattern: A big night tends to come after an exhaustive workweek or in celebration of a wedding, anniversary, or birthday. Blind to my drink count, I chatter like a wind-up doll and, before morning arrives, I may have split my pants (a side effect of dropping it too hot) or fallen off of a sports bar (the actual bar). My first New Year’s Eve in New York City, I learned what “getting chopped” means. It’s a slang term used to describe a person who becomes violently ill after binging on a mixture of alcohol and marijuana. I got chopped alright, but not before I lost my damn mind in the bathroom of a stranger’s house. After what felt like hours of vomiting, not to mention extreme paranoia over having hogged the only restroom at the party, my date escorted me home, where I threw up (again) on my Upper East Side stoop.
Something happens to me during celebrations. It’s almost as if a molecular change takes place the minute I sense fun. I short circuit. I forget basic details, like whether or not I have money. I disregard my otherwise strict bedtime rules. Simply slipping into sequins can generate enough frenetic energy within me to power a Tesla.
Is it genetic? My mother had it. When guests rang our Jackson, Mississippi, doorbell for dinner parties, she’d react as though she opened the door to Ed McMahon holding an oversized check from Publisher’s Clearing House. Then there’s my father, a thick-necked athlete who, in the 70s, wore bell-bottom jeans and velour tapestried shirts that allowed his chest hair to flow freely. He loved disco and dancing. The man literally wrestled a bear “for fun” at the state fair. When I was thirteen, Dad told me that my mother was “too plain” for him when they first met. Ultimately he came around to the nice-girl type, but mostly he liked “girls with long black hair and glitter on their eyes.” I was too young to understand his implications, but I did know that these kinds of women were fun.
From then on, I loved parties, and I loved being the life of the party.
Even today, a decidedly more domestic time in my life, I brood over what life-altering social engagement I must be missing as I hit the sheets early on Friday and Saturday nights. I imagine the rush of nearing the entryway of a party, a feeling that swells for me during meals with friends. It’s not about the food or the fancy clothes or the music. In fact, if the music drowns out the sound of other guests’ voices, I have no interest. I attend dance parties, dinners, gallery openings, performances, and all weddings to which I’m invited because I want to be with people. I want to know people, laugh with people, and make future plans with people. People are what I do.
It’s an exhausting obsession. And if I’m really honest, it’s not about “people”; it’s about this person. When we giggle over common bonds, when we discuss our differences, I feel validated. When you want to be with me, I feel happy. So when you extend a social invitation, I can’t say no. Really: can’t. The split pants and overdrinking are byproducts of my obsession with people.
So, what are you doing later?