Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 02/14/13 12:45 PM

Feature: Where`s The Party Tonight?


With the right strategy, you can have a good time. Let`s make sure you do.

The disclaimer ought to come right at the start, that this is not the party where you make a grand entrance with your gang of girls/boys, where you eat, drink and are merry, exiting on a wave of exuberance. Nope.

This piece deals with those do’s that are official, formal, semi-formal, or even a party you attend impelled only by curiosity, not because you know anyone there, where even the host/hostess is just an acquaintance.

Of course, you get those kinds of invitations too, to parties you’d rather skip, to settle on the couch with a good book or watch some television, instead.

You, of course, have seen films where the mysterious hero/heroine, perfectly attired, attends these parties, instantly becomes the central focus of attention amidst a whole gaggle of perfect strangers, charms each and every person in the room effortlessly, and then wafts out, leaving everything just that dimmed in radiance.

That was in the film. You have also experienced hard reality. Where you attend one of these parties, find your attire is just that bit inappropriate (too much or too little, as the case may be), where the host leaves you all alone immediately after meeting and greeting you by the front door; where the boss does not have anything to say to you apart from a most perfunctory ‘hello`; where all your attempts to break into the different social circles in the room come to nothing and then, you spill some of the chilli sauce on your outfit.

Enjoy the party

Okay, that was the worst case scenario. Before you chicken out, anticipating all the disastrous might-be’s, let`s take a moment. Hey, you enjoy parties and have even been known, on occasion, to sparkle at some of them.

This one may just turn out to be a decent affair and you may end up having fun. So, the first step is slipping into the right mindset, a positive, anticipatory one. Networking is vital, so you need to attend this party and it’s up to you to present your best front.

Which leads to slipping into the right kind of clothes, nothing too starchy but nothing too flashy either (save that for the raucous get-togethers with your buddies). The idea is to look great without losing out on comfort.

The timing has to be right too. Unless the event is a formal one, in which case you must arrive at the stipulated time, do fetch up only a half- hour after the given time. This way, you will not be the bane of all hosts, the first guest, yet you won’t be the one who arrives well after the party is in full swing. Once you are in, don’t stand in one corner, however tempting that is.

Circulate, try to enter circles; you do that by standing at the outer edge for a moment till someone notices you and draws you in. After which, you make a comment on the weather, the great canapés they are serving or that controversial film now showing at the multiplex, all innocuous but interesting opener comments. It will help if you make up a mental list of at least five such opener comments before you go to the party.

Don’t stay in one place all evening, mingle. Listeners will always be more in demand than talkers, specially perfect the art of listening. Try and meet as many people as you can, amidst this lot will be some very interesting people, some potential friends and of course, some potential employers, too.

And if you meet the inevitable snob or snobs, don’t take it personally, they are that way with most people. It`s their loss not getting to know you.

Parties are basically about expanding your social circle so it makes sense to go to one with your curiosity quotient intact.

Ask people things about themselves, this one is a sure-fire friend winner. Ask them how they know the host; tell them how you know him. Stay off religion, that’s still taboo, but politics is another matter. Scams and scandals keep a party buzzing for a large part of the time.

Of course, it is important to remember not to get too deeply involved; this is a party, not a political party convention.

Then, don’t be the Party Bore. And while on bores, if you manage to get stranded with the Party Bore (there’s no way you won’t know this one, he’ll drone on and on till you feel your eyes glazing over) let your eyes wander past him, pretend to recognise a dear old friend at the other end of the room, and excuse yourself. Or say you need to go to the bathroom.

Find friends

Please remember that food and drink are dicey affairs. When it comes to drink, don’t overdo it. Don’t be the person who stays put at the bar all evening. Many veteran party-goers line their stomachs with a little food before they go to a party so they can handle their drink better. Regarding finger foods, if you feel you will make a mess out of it, just avoid.

Again, the wise party-goer often finds good friends to sit next to, once they have put food on their plates, so that they can temporarily lower their guard and eat well. Moderation is the key word, and the important thing is to avoid any kind of humiliation.

Your exit strategy at a party is all about strategy. Don’t be the first to leave, leading to the inevitable collapse of the do. Wait till at least a set of six guests have started to leave, then join them. Don’t be the last hanger-on, even if you are having a whale of a time.

Pick the right time, go find you host/hostess, thank him/her for a great time. Remember to say ‘bye` to people you’d like to meet again; those farewells inevitably result in exchange of business cards and tentative dates for a future meeting. There, you’ve done it: networked and had a fun time, besides.


Dos and Don’ts

Have the right mindset, a positive, anticipatory one

Networking is vital, so present your best front

Dress appropriately, nothing too starchy but nothing too flashy either.

Arrive half-an-hour after the stipulated time, unless the event is formal.

Mingle with the others.

Be a listener rather than a talker.

Don’t overdo the drink.

Thank the host/hostess for a great time.

This ran in THE HINDU of 25 Sept 2008.

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Sheila Kumar • February 14, 2013

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