LOOK AT THESE HIP, MULTICULTURAL SINGLES ENJOYING THE RIP-ROARING TIME OF THEIR YOUNG LIVES. first of all, you know marcus needs to get his ass on that grill, otherwise the chicken is going to dry out and the hot links are gonna be all fucked up. what's so funny, amy? did jace get mauled by a dog or did he buy those pants like that? is that a beer in kelly's glass, what about the baby!??!? i have been to approximately seven outdoor parties in my adult life and never at any of them has a group of people stood chatting and laughing next to a raging fire as the one poor slob who got stuck manually laboring over actively-burning charcoal on a blazing hot and sunny day dripped sweat onto our cheeseburgers. mostly people just loitered in one spot in the yard aggravated that the food wasn't done when they made a point to arrive late before retreating to the house to get drunk and play dominoes.
here are some of the ways outside parties quickly get terrible, in no particular order:
-the people who volunteered to bring the most food items are super late.
-it's been raining all day but these fools refuse to cancel the party and/or move it inside.
-PISSED OFF NEIGHBORS.
-not enough food.
-too much food but not the right kind, like, lots of chicken wings but no sides.
-the person who brings nine unexpected other people.
-nobody thought to stop for a bag of ice?
-two or three precariously constructed chairs you're terrified to sit in.
-cheap ass plates that collapse under the weight of your potato salad.
-the "family recipe dry rub" the host insists on using that tastes like trash.
-sweating while eating charred meats and standing on uneven grass making small talk with people you mostly hate while trying not to spill is horrifying.
-mayonnaise based salads growing bacteria under the hot sun.
-one toilet, thirty people.
-that one dude with all the food restrictions who should've brought black bean burgers instead of half a handle of vodka if he was so worried about eating.
mavis and i are throwing a wedding party in our michigan backyard in a couple weeks and i'm not gonna lie, i have never been more anxious about anything in my life. and not the good kind of anxious, the "if i don't wake up tomorrow i'll never have to worry about providing an adequate selection of gluten-free appetizers" anxious. i would rather chew shards of glass while watching the local news on an endless loop than spend two hours meticulously folding and artfully arranging all of our prettiest dish towels for display and pretending it is important to me that there be fresh flowers in the guest bathroom all the time. i'm grown now, which means i have an actual receptacle for my dirty clothes and all of my cups match, but i never invite anyone over because the stress of trying to anticipate where in my tiny apartment your eyes might land so that i can thoroughly wipe it down prior to your arrival makes me want to pull out my fingernails. are the miniblinds clean? have i scrubbed the baseboards recently!? what if you fall down in the kitchen and roll over only to come face to face with all those cheerios i dropped under there three years ago. this is the kind of madness that lurks at the edges of my nightmares, which is why none of my friends has seen more than the outside of my building. but this new place has a yard and a fire pit and a propane grill, which i am just fine ignoring from the enclosed safety of the sunroom while recording videos of helen angrily grooming her hindquarters. apparently that's just me.
it's only june and already i have an inbox full of paperless post invitations to summer soirees and backyard luaus and my finger cannot click that will not attend button fast enough. i just can't make it, fam. i'm sick, i broke my leg, my head hurts, i need to spend the entire afternoon re-reading girls on fire, and omg wow is this one of those free HBO weekends!? no matter how gorgeous the weather there will be no going outside for me, i will SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY. anyway, you know it was not my idea to invite 70+ people over to scrutinize how badly the lawn needs to be mowed and silently judge our stereo equipment, but here we are. the invitations have been sent, the catering order has been placed, and the playlist i agonized over for hours has almost enough too short on it to get the party started. i'm already tired, and i haven't even had to listen to anyone criticizing the upholstery on the couch yet. ugh i think this is what well-adjusted people would call "compromising." well so far, i hate it. since i'm listed as co-host (please let the earth swallow us all whole before next weekend) i can't get out of potentially being attacked by a sick raccoon for a bite of the three bean salad someone will inevitably bring, but here are some tricks i've used to make other people's picnics more tolerable for me. spoiler alert: they all involve leaving.
1 park far away and keep forgetting stuff in your car. it's a cloudless 82 degrees: birds are chirping, the hum of neighborhood lawnmowers drones in the distance, and mark and laura are hosting a party for their cat's birthday at their house at 2pm sharp. you circle your sensible, fuel-efficient vehicle leisurely around their block a few times after your first driveby revealed that you indeed were the first person to arrive to a cat party, then park around the corner and pretend to be texting someone interesting until you see at least three other people arrive, arms heavily laden with scratching posts and catnip mice. get out, making a point to leave the shiny bags of meow mix party mix you got 2-for1 at target nestled safely in the back seat. as soon as they try to usher you out to the kiddie pool filled with melting ice and cans of coors light, bang the heel of your palm against your forehead the way people in the movies do when suddenly struck by a memory and conveniently excuse yourself to fetch the treats from the car. twenty minutes later, same goes for the boxes of wine. an hour after that: oh yeah, that jumbo tray of cheese cubes! you'll either spend so much time rifling through your trunk that they'll forget you were ever there to begin with or be so irritated that on your fourth trip out they'll put you out of your misery and lock the door behind you. and, if all that doesn't work, forget everything you offered to bring at the store, which will give you an excuse to actually get in your car and drive it away.
2 offer to help in the kitchen. i don't know anything about making sangria but if you invite me to the yard party happening between little piles of petrified dog turds behind your house that is exactly what i am bringing. i will be in cool, air conditioned comfort for at least 97% of the fiesta, "chopping apples" and "slicing oranges" in the kitchen as slowly as humanly possible. i will put myself in charge of keeping the condiment bottles full and the pickle slices uniform, smiling internally as all the suckers roasting like shriveled hot dogs on the counter at 7-eleven commend my selflessness from their spots on the yellowing grass outside. "you want to switch places for a bit?" they'll yell with mock concern in the general direction of the kitchen, slapping at the mosquito bites swelling on their bare arms and legs. "no, i got it!" i'll coo sweetly in response, placing each chip individually into the serving bowl. i will take painstaking care of each kaiser roll and place each baked bean meticulously in its dish, anything at all i can do to prolong staying quietly inside with oversized sunglasses on which makes it look like i'm ready to dash out to refill every empty lemonade cup at a moment's notice but are really just perched on my nose to disguise the fact that i am watching tv.
3 go to the bathroom a lot. this might be easier for me with the crohns and all, but listen: anyone can get the "stomach flu." i'll set the scene: you roll up to courtney's crib with some impressive beer you overpaid for to make a good impression. she informs you that the casual dinner you thought would be served on the west elm table that was the only thing left on her registry (because you waited until the last minute wtf is wrong with you) inside the gigantic new apartment you're wondering how she and her new husband can possibly afford is actually going to happen outside their back door on the landing she is pretending is a deck. but what about my arthritic knees? you think drearily, imagining all of the splinters you will inevitably be removing from your backside since there's only one outdoor chair and you are going to have to sit folded into yourself on her gross stairs. as she leads you to your makeshift seat next to the garbage can, trailing your fingertips across that beautiful table you had to eat noodles for six months to pay off, linger near the bathroom as she waits expectantly at the back door. now sit in there for a long time. read the back of the hand soap, play a round of scrabble on your phone, do whatever you can to kill ten agonizing minutes which, trust me, will be excruciating for everyone involved. before you dislocate your hip as you squat to eat whatever blue apron meal she threw together off your laptable go back to the bathroom for another ten minutes. when you finally emerge, she will want nothing more than for you to get out of her house.
4 schedule an important call. now this might be tricky if you're going to a thing where everybody knows all of your business, but if most of the people at the party are previously unknown to you then they have no goddamned idea that "excuse me, my editor is calling" is not a real thing in your actual life. i went to a networking event (god why am i even still alive) a few weeks ago that was on this little stretch of patio i had to walk through an blessedly covered, delightfully cooled restaurant to get to, then as i stood there trying to remember if i'd written anything offensive on my linked in this guy came over eating a little, like, spinach tart or something real wet and green that got all over his teeth and asked, without swallowing, "what kind of job are you looking for!?" i watched a bead of sweat run down his temple at the same pace as the one trickling down the center of my back and was like "i already have a job." he was just about to soldier bravely into a description of the analytics company advertised on the card he forced into my hand when i pointed to my phone and shrugged then walked back inside for some privacy. anyone who knows me IRL knows that my phone is on do not disturb 99.9% of the time and i never answer it because honestly, in my 36 years of suffering through life on this earth i cannot remember a call that i was ever truly happy was not an email or a text. sure, i have had some excellent phone calls, but they definitely occurred when i could've been otherwise watching an intense blackhead extraction video or sleeping fully clothed in the middle of the day. which is why YO I GOTTA TAKE THIS CALL is such a dream, because people assume that if you're actually answering your phone then it must be an important call. do not disabuse them of this notion. no one has to know it's a bill collector.
i know it's supposed to be 95 degrees this weekend, and if it's fun for you to stand in the yawning dog mouth that is your friend's sweltering backyard then cool. i'm jealous of people who enjoy making small talk while wearing shorts, i honestly am. but for those of us who know there is nothing other than misery to be found atop the sparse gravel puncturing the soles of our feet through our arch-murdering rubber sandals while we fumble a half-empty drink and full ear of corn next to tony's trash-filled garage, i will see you in the guest bathroom.