Summer may not be “officially” here, but given that Memorial Day is behind us and the weather is warm the season has begun. Certainly the summer social season.
Minnesotans like to claim that we get out and do things in all seasons and in all weather.
That’s kind of true. We do have winter parades and a winter carnival. The Twin Cities is a theater town and most of those seasons have a winter arc. But on a purely social level it’s just not the same.
Think about an ice skating rink. Bring into your mind all those movies you’ve seen with shots of Rockefeller Center and the ice skaters under the big tree. Everyone goes around in a mostly orderly fashion. Most people are skating on there own or as couples. Sometimes you see a sweet family grouping of three. There are small clusters on the sidelines watching and waving as the skaters go by. It’s almost pastoral.
Now think about a water park. Everyone is screaming. There is no order. You can’t tell who is with who. The poor swimmer who actually wants to do solitary laps struggles to maintain the single roped off lane. Even the sunbathers on the side are lined up like sardines row after row. This is a social event.
The same thing is true with the neighbors. Sure there is commentary and support around shoveling, but you can’t really talk over the noise of the snow blower. On the other hand gardening and backyard BBQ’s expand the opportunities for neighborhood gossip exponentially. There are also the walkers. I have a neighborhood where people walk for exercise, walk the dogs and walk their small kids to the park. In the winter we wave, usually with one of us in the car. In the summer we might stop and chat for a bit.
So all things social happen, pretty much all at once, in our short summer season.
I’m up for a good party every now and again. It’s interesting to flit from conversation to conversation and meet new people. It’s fun hanging out with a crowd. But for me it’s also a lot of work. I much prefer my small social groups. I don’t need to know everyone. I do just fine over dinner at the corporate banquet, a social scenario that is terrifying for many. I guess I like to be social without too many distractions from the actual socialization.
Maybe this is why I have never been great about throwing parties. I live in terror than no one will come and I also live in terror that everyone will show up. When my kids were little and I was still willing to do birthday parties for them I made a point to plan them around a particular activity so I wouldn’t have to “entertain” them. It’s entertaining that I really don’t get.
My folks throw a great party, good food and good conversation. I can manage that as well, but my mix of people and topics of conversation aren’t always a good match. Political conversations have gotten harder in mixed groups as the political discourse of the country has become so polarized. Conversations about religion or spirituality are fascinating for me. I don’t particularly care which one we’re talking about. But speaking from the heart doesn’t necessarily correspond with editing for public consumption. Sensitive topics at parties kind of require that editing.
I’ve got all kinds of other jargon based topics for conversation up my sleeve. I can talk about the education system and special needs kids, but that excludes the non-parents. Those conversations can become surprisingly contentious with parents of school aged kids as well. The emotional content is higher than you might expect. I can talk about medical issues. This makes the older folks in the room happy, and any of us with chronic stuff can join in, but it puts a damper on the party.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my best parties are of the old fashion dinner party variety. 5-10 people especially chosen around a dinner table. I’m not so strict that I need matched pairs. Sadly I no longer have the table and chairs to accommodate this kind of party. I guess I’ll just have to go out. But I’ll be happy to bring a hot dish.
What do you think makes a good party?