b Papa Dog's Blog: My Party Neurosis

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Monday, October 04, 2004

My Party Neurosis

One of my favourite bits in Clerks was when Randal wanted to go to a party (er, actually a funeral) because he didn’t want to miss “the social event of the season.” Dante says, “But you hate people,” and Randal replies, “Yes, but I love gatherings. Isn't it ironic?” That’s kind of similar to my own little internal paradox. I really like throwing a party. I like the conceptual phase, the planning phase, and the preparation phase. I like deciding how big it’s going to be, what food there’s going to be, what entertainment there’s going to be. The bigger and more complicated the concept the better – I like taking care of myriad details, putting together a clockwork entertainment for friends and family. I tend a party like a fire on a desert island, shielding the spark from the wind, carefully coaxing the flame to rise. Eventually there comes a point when that job is done, when enough guests have arrived that the scene has taken on an energy of its own and the job of host really starts to lack relevance. It’s at that point that I look around and suddenly think, “Fuck, there’re a lot of people in my house! Think I’d better walk the dog.” I like all the people individually, see, and I’m just fine when we have them over one or two at a time—but the whole mob of them together makes me duck and cover. I enjoy engineering a crowd scene; I don’t like being in one.

In olden times, I’d do the sensible thing and drink until I didn’t mind having to make small talk. Alas, domestic harmony has brought me back to sobriety. I’ve lost my taste for liquor almost entirely and – can this be right? – I can’t even remember the last time I had a drink. Instead, I duck the obligation of extended conversation by looking busy. I stop briefly and move quickly. If I’m in the backyard, I remember something that needs doing in the kitchen. If I’m too long in the kitchen I remember a matter requiring my attention in the living room. I bob, I weave, I circle. In effect, this means I do circulate and talk to everybody, but I reduce each encounter to levels I can find manageable.

Fortunately, Mama Dog is my complementary opposite in this regard. She hates having to plan a big event and gets overwhelmed by the details. The very idea of planning a big party fills her with fear and loathing. She starts looking immediately for ways to cut corners. “Can’t we just put out some cheese and crackers and send them on their way?” But then when the big moment has arrived and her friends are assembled, she’s suddenly in her element. She moves smoothly into the role of hostess and takes centre stage while I quietly withdraw and find something fun to do, like rinse out the accumulated sody pop cans before they go in the recycling bin.

All that said, last night’s party went smashingly, I thought. Random recollections: We had a high percentage of flakers and ended up with a lot of food left over – thirty mouths rather than forty makes a big difference. There are worse things than having way too much good food, though. The dog stopped barking at each arrival after the first dozen or so showed up. Babies Dog and Pirate coped well with the noise and crowd – better than I, I suppose. Baby Dog for once was awake at the party, made the rounds and met everybody. We had one couple over who are expecting a child in November, and in a rare burst of good hostmanship (?), I gave them a guided tour of all our baby facilities. I guess expectant parents bring out the elder statesman in me now. Ours is destined to be a baby-heavy crowd after all these years. Two other couples in attendance have March deliverables, four days apart. We had known about one but the other was a surprise. We met our new side-fence neighbour for the first time, in what may be some strange kind of birthday tradition. Two years ago, the last time I threw a big birthday hoo-raw for Mama Dog, we invited the Japanese youngsters who were then our new neighbours in that very same house. I remember Makiko said, in hesitant English, “I think this is very sweet. A Japanese man would never do this for his wife.” I wonder where they are now. We were celebrating, in case I’ve forgotten to make it clear, Mama Dog’s fortieth birthday and Baby Dog’s hundredth day. The cake said “Happy 40th (Mama Dog’s real name)” and “Happy 100th (Baby Dog’s real name).” It was my hope that the baker was under the impression that we were having a party for a really old lady. I don’t know why that thought pleases me, but it does. Mama Dog and Baby Dog both made out well in the gift department, though I think I was hiding somewhere during the gift opening and didn’t really see what everything was. Matt brought a pineapple. I assume it was meant as party food, but there was so much food already that it just got set down and forgotten. This morning, it smelled really good sitting on the counter. Every time I went near the sink, I’d catch a whiff of it and think some pineapple would be a good thing on the morning after a party. Mama Dog had it for breakfast, and said it was as good as it smelled. Mama Dog’s mom goes home today. The house is already clean (mostly) thanks to my people-avoidance neurosis, but the living room will need to be put back to its original locked and upright position tonight. Normally we have a Thanksgiving party, but this year the dates are just to close – the logical date for the Thanksgiving dinner would be next Sunday – so we’re giving it a pass for the first time in eight or nine years. That means (I think) that we’re done with big parties for the year, and probably won’t have another until Baby Dog’s Dol next June. I guess I’ll again be living the quiet life until then.


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