When I arrived at my friend’s holiday cocktail party, I looked around the room and realized that other than the hostess, Margaret, there was not a recognizable face in the crowd. I glanced around to take stock of fashion sense in the room and then at the mirror to check my outfit. I realized that once again, I had made the incorrect outfit selection. It doesn’t matter how much planning I do, I have an inexplicable talent of choosing the most inappropriate apparel for any occasion.
If I were asked to select a word that best describes my appearance, I would say “pleasant.” Although, my looks do not stimulate one’s gag reflexes, I have not been presented any awards for my outstanding beauty and poise. It is inevitable, there is always at least one woman at each party who has the ability to turn the heads of all of the men and generate instant jealousy from all of the women in the room. She is tall and proud and magnetic. She smolders. I would describe myself as the semi-attractive woman who is standing just behind her…holding the coats.
So there I stood, in the foyer. I had a choice to make. I could muster up some faux-party-confidence and begin to mingle. I could attempt to blend in with the décor, sip a drink and hope that a party guest would happen by and engage me in a conversation. I could plant myself near the buffet table and force people to speak with me, or at least say “excuse me,” if they want to get close to the food. Or I could attach myself to Margaret, the hostess, who is, required by the law-of-hosting and etiquette to talk to me, or introduce me into another conversation.
While making my decision, a severe looking woman dressed in all black and who looked like she just stepped away from the Chanel make-up counter, walked up to me and introduced herself as Victoria, “Don’t call me Vicky,” she commanded. “My name is Victoria.”
Whatever you say, Vicky, I thought.
Victoria was obviously killing time with me until someone more stylish was free for conversation. She sipped her martini as she looked past me and lied to me. Yes, lied. I could tell. If I had had a calculator with me and had added up all of things that she said she had accomplished, Victoria would have to be about two hundred and seventy years old. Obviously, Victoria was not privy to the two basic rules of lying to someone at a cocktail party. First, if you choose to lie, make sure there is a recovery, if challenged. “Really, Victoria, tell me more about water skiing on the Dead Sea. I thought it was a sacred place and that speedboats were not allowed there. From whom did you get a permit?” Second, lie to the party-drunk or to someone who is not really listening, who will, most likely, not remember anything about the conversation.
Without so much as a word, a ‘good-bye,” a “piss-off” or a nod Victoria sashayed away from me toward a group of porcelain faced, skinny people who seemed to be posing. They weren’t moving. They just might have worked part time as department store window mannequins.
After a minute or so, I found and joined a small group of people who were politely listening to a man named Neil as he droned on about his “fabulous” career, his incredible office, his importance, and his plans for advancement “in the firm.” No one in the circle seemed interested in what he was saying, but they didn’t want to appear rude and walk away. So we all stood there, helplessly and listened. He was so boring that he should have been forced to wear a warning label. Caution: Use of his man may cause drowsiness.
My eyes began to water when I strained to keep my mouth closed while stifling a yawn. I was tempted to grab Neil by the shoulders, shake him and holler, “No one in this room finds anything at all fascinating about you or your work. Unless you could promise someone a high paying position, that requires minimal work and travel to exotic destinations along with an unlimited expense account, we simply don’t want to hear about it! But instead, I stood quietly, with the rest of the group, until he finished his verbal resume.
A few minutes later, Margaret motioned me over and asked me if I was enjoying myself.
I started to lie. “Oh yes …”
She interrupted, “I want you to meet someone. Come with me.” She motioned with her finger for me to follow her.
She then introduced me to a man named Michael. He was also alone. He was handsome, intelligent and interesting … and spoken for. About ten minutes into our conversation he announced, “I have a girlfriend who is out-of-state. But you and I could get together for coffee, or something.” Then he added, “Fortunately, I don’t find you attractive so I don’t have to worry about getting myself into trouble.”
What? Fortunately, he doesn’t find me attractive … Was that supposed to be a compliment? Gee, I thought. A girl can’t hear that too many times.
When I went outside for a breath of fresh air, I met Phil. He seemed like a “regular guy.” We spoke for a few moments. He asked me if I was dating anyone. I told him that I wasn’t and asked about his situation. He told me that he was single.
He started, “My last girlfriend was a model … ”
I stopped him right there. I had to know. “Tell me, Phil,” I asked, “Why is it that every man I meet used to date a model? How many models could be out there?” I could never understand why a man would tell a woman about how beautiful his past girlfriends were. Although men may find this information to be fascinating and impressive, women can live a lifetime without hearing it.
I wandered into the kitchen to catch my breath and plan my escape. I looked at my watch. Damn, it was too early to leave. The caterers looked at me with a knowing-look that said, “Sit down, and have a cup of coffee.”
As I sat there in the kitchen, a few other party-goers drifted in. Some of the sat down. Others leaned against the counters, had some coffee, and picked at the desert trays. Before I knew it, the entire party had moved into the kitchen area.
Over all, it had been a lovely party. The food was delicious and guest were very nice but I was ready to leave.
Michael waved over the crowd toward Margaret and announced, “Well, I have to be on my way. I have to catch a plane in the morning.”
That was my opportunity, “Michael, would you mind walking me to my car?” My question was two-fold. It not only gave Margaret the illusion that Michael and I had hit-it-off, it also was my chance to cut out of the party.