Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Tis the Season

I almost always enjoy a party, be it in my pants or otherwise. But, ah, December. The time where the spirit of giving is brutally commercialized to the point of non-existence, and the mad dash for $99 DVD players leads to people being trampled by stampedes of their own making. 'Tis the season, as they say. 'Tis also the season, it turns out, for awful holiday parties. I've managed to avoid this fruitcake-esque tradition for basically my entire adult life, but suffice it to say that this year I've made up for lost time.

Being uncannily popular has been my cross to bear for quite a few years now; however, through a series of service-industry jobs and a dedicated effort to avoid things that suck has kept me clear of such gatherings. Being a waiter means that you try to work the nights that most people throw their parties, as they tend to be the most lucrative. It also means that you are privy to the mind-numbingly boring conversation between co-workers as they try to act as if they actually like each other enough to have fun for a two-hour meal. They usually run out of things to talk about about half-way through appetizers, and spend the rest of the time trying to tell the same stories to the people sitting on the other end of the table, resulting in a deafening babble of small talk that is enough to make someone want to defenestrate themselves out of the 30th floor of an office building.

However, now that I've left waiting tables behind, I've also left myself open for far more of these invitations, including one from my very own place of work, a midtown hotel. After a banner year of laying off dozens of employees, decreasing the rate at which vacation is accumulated, no longer providing food to the workers at a 24-hour business and generally being all-around douchebags, The Powers That Be at the hotel decided that their staff might need a little morale pick-me-up. You really can't pull the wool over their eyes. So the HR Director sent out some invitations. The HR Director, it's worth noting, spends a third of her time banging the bellman, a third of it snorting coke with her boyfriend and a third of it on Facebook. You'll notice that none of those things have anything to do with her job. That is, unless you count letting the bellman lay some pipe as improving morale, but really that's only improving the morale of one person; the rest of us are just nauseated. These invitations promised that they would be awarding "THOUSANDS of dollars in prizes" to the lucky employees, and that no one should miss it. My friend Christopher quickly informed me that the "THOUSANDS of dollars in prizes" amounted to left over gift bags from last fall's abysmal Fashion Week, which means they would consist of hair products, cheap perfume and extra-large shirts that no one in the fashion industry is porcine enough to wear.

Luckily, I don't care enough about my job to actually have bothered to put in an appearance at this soiree. Also luckily, my friends Christopher and Nicole had to go, so I was able to laugh hysterically at the pitiful outcome. First of all, so few employees showed up that they were attempting to conceal extra bags of prizes under any furniture that presented itself as a possible hiding place. Then the general manager (a classic case of a Napoleon Complex leading to hair plugs) frantically kept polling the department managers asking if any of their employees were en route, probably while trying to determine whether he could return any of his "THOUSANDS of dollars in prizes" for cash at the Duane Reade. And finally, in the ultimate masterstroke of partying, Christopher and Nicole were sick for days following, probably thanks to the dim lighting not allowing for a complete inspection of suspicious foodstuffs.

But really, that's a party that I didn't even go to, so how worked up can I really get about it? Also, allow me to just say now that I did attend a few holiday parties this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. Most of those featured an appropriate number of people, excellent food and delicious wine. However, I did attend a few holiday parties this year that did not meet my exacting standards.

First of all, is it not the duty of the host to invite a number of guests appropriate for the space they have available? If I was throwing a party at my parents' house, I would invite all of my friends, tell them to bring along fun people, and hire a bouncer in case someone who sucks slipped through the cracks. On the other hand, if I was throwing a party in a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, I would take stock of the number of chairs I had available and invite accordingly. I would then make certain that none of my invitees saw fit to bring five more people along...not that I think Adam is going to attempt that again anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let him live it down. He'll be hearing about that for the next decade or so. But I digress. What I would definitely NOT do is invite 35 people to a space that comfortably holds 15, and only seats ten. When I'm stumblingly drunkenly away from a blindingly boring conversation, I'd like to gracefully alight in a chair as opposed to face-planting on the carpet while holding a glass of red wine, hence wasting alcohol. And probably ruining your carpet, but in the immortal words of Sue Sylvester, I don't care so much about that.

Secondly, since you already have your guests packed into the room like sardines, is it really necessary to hire a waitress to further crowd the proceedings? Not only does it make the already packed to the gills feeling of the festivities even worse, now you have innocent guests introducing themselves to the waitress, then noticing that she's wearing an apron and helplessly fumbling through that awkward moment while she quickly scoots away from the creepy guy that she THOUGHT was gay but is now hitting on her. And not only is there a waitress, but the food that's being served is frozen appetizers from the local grocery store. Look: pigs in the blanket have a great place in American cuisine...that place is land-locked states. You can also add them to the list of things that should not be allowed within a twenty-foot radius of me; this list includes, but is not limited to, acid-washed denim, any movie with a pun in the title and Scarlett Johansson. But really, let's decide what kind of party we're having. Is it a party where the fine gourmet options include anything in nugget form? If so, your party does not need help. Rather, it does need help, it just doesn't need THE help.

And finally, I am not the entertainment. If I am there for entertainment, please contact me at least two weeks in advance and we can discuss my fee. Also, we can discuss the quality of food I will be expecting to be fed. But perhaps anyone who feels awkward in party situations should come with an index cards of fun topics that they can bring up and funny stories that they can tell should the conversation lag. That way, when I tell an interesting story, the only response is not appreciative laughter and then expectant looks as I'm expected to continue entertaining a group of people that should, ostensibly, have lives of their own. Take note, ladies: I'm gay, your tits do not entertain me. It was like being on a bad date with a group of straight couples who had somehow come to the conclusion that the time they all went to the ski lodge, got crazy on a couple of wine coolers and retired at 10:00 (PM!!) was riveting comedy. This does not make you a good conversationalist...this makes you your parents, only you're 29 and they're 60.

Ultimately, I survived the party by drinking heavily. However, it's worth noting a few other tidbits that I noticed during this holiday season. 1) Ladies, if you are, as Tim Gunn would say, a bit zaftig, it's a safe bet that you shouldn't wear a bubble dress. 2) When having a grab bag gift exchange, everyone should try to avoid politically themed presents. By this, I reference the fact that Sarah Palin's opus Going Rogue is not an appropriate gift; I don't put a Morning After Pill in there with a sign that says "For Those Nights You're Just Not Sure," do I? No? Then please keep your horribly offensive propaganda to yourself as well. And 3) can we all just stop sending Christmas cards? I see them and all I perceive is a gigantic waste of paper for no reason. Send me an e-card, preferably one that features the word "fuck," because that puts me in the spirit of the holiday.

Now if everyone can just learn something from these little tales, I think we can all become better party-throwers and party-goers next year. Or at least I hope so. If if doesn't get better, my heart has no chance of growing three sizes next year, and it could probably use it.

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