After two years of writing a column about being an introvert who attends random people’s parties, I finally receive it: an invitation to a “Silent Socialite Party” where talking is highly discouraged. The invitation states light snacks and beverages will be available. Attendees may also bring their own, but it isn’t expected or required.
“Got it! I will come empty-handed.”
But what do silent socialites do to get the party lit? Suggested activities include reading, writing, drawing, staring at walls, and knitting. I’m definitely bringing my kid, because it’s important for parents to bond with their young adults, and trick them into doing boring grownup shit. I consider bringing board games, but worry that the shuffling of pieces will sound like cataclysmic cacophony in a room in which the next loudest noise is the incidental collision of knitting needles.
“I choose you, digital notebook and pattern finding card game!”
My kid grabs a sketchbook, pencil, and the same book he’s been pretending to read for at least as long as I’ve been writing this column. I already know he won’t be reading it today either.
We arrive right on time, lest we miss any preliminary discourse and instructions—like where the bathroom is or whether this muffin is up for grabs. Our host is warm and welcoming, though justifiably caught off guard by her first guest being a Black Madonna and child. The child wastes no time digging into the treats laid out across the coffee table. Our gracious host offers one last warning that we’ll be sitting “in awkward silence.” I can’t help but chuckle. She has no idea how much more awkward my company is if I talk.
Two more guests arrive, officially establishing my kid as the resident male. In certain parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and Utah, he could declare the rest of us to be his property. His only competitor would be a large, orange, striped, and pillow-like cat on whom I believe Jim Davis based his iconic glutton Garfield.
The apartment is a rectangle with a mostly open floorplan, generous wooden accents from floor to doorframes, and charming to say the very least. The entire space is decorated with a perfect selection of antiques. All items share the wooden accent theme, but span decades. The main sofa is right out of a Rockwell illustration. There are numerous piggy banks and an assortment of ceramic animals; paintings, portraits, and cross stitch adorn the walls. My child’s supine body adorns the couch—his eyes glazing over with discontent. The blue-eyed rubber duck dressed like a Navy sailor, as seen in every roll of 1960s Super8 footage ever developed, stares at me from across the room.
The part of me that desperately wants to nest envies the wall of records. Were I to place the overall decor into a specific decade, I’d have to say the 1990s. Much of the decor, including the stack of cassette tapes, would have been antiques even then, but such was the nature of the nostalgia-loving decade of my teens.
My teen peels himself from the couch just enough to stuff another handful of potato chips in his face, before walking to a window to project his blossoming angst onto no one in particular. Ironically, his olive complexion takes on an angelic tone in the diffused sunlight gently washing in through white, lace curtains.
There’s a plate of baked goods (muffins, cookies, and danishes), a bowl of salt and pepper potato chips, a cranberry cheese log, crackers, beer, wine, and seltzer. As perfect as everything is, I have attended enough parties to know something essential is missing....
I silently excuse myself to the bathroom to drop a deuce, because someone’s gotta do it, and realize I’ve been sitting in the living room, staring at my phone, wearing sunglasses, like some sort of broke-ass, gender queer Roy Orbison.
Bowels evacuated and sunglasses removed, I return to my chair across from the blue-eyed duck and continue feverishly taking notes. I always self-isolate with my phone to take party notes, and yet this feels odd. Is it because I’m doing it in plain view of everyone? Is it because it appears that, more than ever, I’ve missed the point of a gathering and am choosing to spend my afternoon catching up on emails in an intimate room of strangers?
Whatever the case, I believe I would and will do this again. If nothing else, it sure beats pretending to listen to someone’s boring anecdote. Silence gets 10 points out of 10.