By William Hageman
Holiday parties can be great. Reconnecting with friends and family, celebrating the good will of the season, pointing and laughing at Bob’s garish battery-powered Christmas sweater.
In reality, of course, holiday parties are not all eggnog and elf ears. They can be the setting for all manner of festive disasters, incidents that will crush the joyous spirit of even the jolliest reveler.
Of course, party disasters can be memorable.
A couple of years ago, authors Abigail Stokes and Annaliese Soros were being honored at a spiffy formal dinner to mark the publication of their book, “Dinner Party Disasters: True Stories of Culinary Catastrophe” (Abrams).
“A gentleman arrived, and I thought he might have been in his cups a little when he got there,” Stokes remembers. “By dinnertime, he was getting loud and was obviously drunk. So here’s this party to celebrate a book about dinner party disasters, and he suddenly stands up at the dinner table and slugs a guy. Annaliese and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is gold.’”
So with the holidays upon us, here are some (sadly) common party predicaments, and some possible solutions.
THE LATE START
You get to the party only to find that it’s in full swing and everyone is having a great time. You, on the other hand, are starting from a dead stop. “I think it’s important to gauge the energy of the party when you walk in,” says Eric Grzymkowski, author of the just-published “A Year of Living Sinfully: A Self-Serving Guide to Doing Whatever the Hell You Want” (Adams Media). “I like to always be a little late in arriving. Nobody wants to sit around with the host for an hour eating chips. So try to blend in. You might have to boost your energy level; have a few drinks and catch up with everybody.”
ILLEGAL USE OF HANDS
All is well till some miscreant decides to grope you. There’s a time and a place. But a holiday party is neither. “We had a guy (do that) at a party here,” Stokes says. “I went to the two largest men at the party and asked them to help me remove him. One on each side, and they just marched him outside. As a guest, I’d go to the hostess and tell her and ask her to do something.”
In your revelry, you carelessly break something. A vase gets knocked over, a wine decanter gets bumped off a table, a mounted moose head crashes to the floor. If there is a child nearby, look accusingly at the little tyke and shake your head disapprovingly. Throw in a “Tsk, tsk” to seal the deal. But if you are the obvious culprit, and all eyes are on you, take your medicine. Apologize profusely. Clean up the damage. Offer to replace the priceless and now-shattered family heirloom. Make it an early night and exit. Carefully.
SHRIMP PUFFS TASTE FUNNY
The food is lousy. Bad. I-need-a-houseplant-to-spit-into wretched. Don’t worry. “There’s nothing that a discretely spilled drink can’t solve,” Grzymkowski says. “If someone spills their drink over a tray of really bad appetizers, you’re only one phone call away from pizza and hot wings.”
You can barely hear the Christmas carols over the sound of somebody sneezing and hacking. Yes, a guest brought his cold to the party. You can try to avoid him, but those germs are everywhere.
“The kindest thing to do would be to persuade them to leave,” Stokes says. “Get a couple of boxes of Kleenex, go put your arm around them — careful not to get too close to their nose or mouth — and tell them it was kind of them to come, but they need to go home and get some rest.”
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
You see another guest swipe something — a piece of silverware or a knickknack. You could call attention to the person, but because everyone in attendance knows everyone else, you’ll just be running the party into a ditch. All for a lousy fork. “There’s really no point in making a big deal about someone stealing something like a fork or a glass,” Grzymkowski says.
Nothing says holidays like a guest who just keeps yammering about a topic that no one else wants to hear about. You know the guy. He’s convinced that Donald Trump is a brilliant statesman, or that the Twist is coming back, and it is his mission to convince the rest of us. You can change the subject — or try — but it’s futile. Best strategy: Excuse yourself and go get a drink.
If you thought a room full of cold germs was bad, what about a room full of kids? Weaving their way through the crowd, running and laughing and shrieking are several children. Go ahead, do the Scrooge thing. “I guess I’d — and maybe I’m not the nicest about this — I’d go over to the parents and say, ‘When is the baby sitter arriving to take the kids?’” Stokes says. “If they flinched, I’d tell them this was not a party for kids.”
Shortly after walking in, you realize that you dislike every single person there. Dewar’s would have to work 24/7 for a year to produce enough scotch to make these people bearable. So take advantage of a bad situation and have fun.
Advises Grzymkowski: “Make a complete jackass of yourself. You walk away with a feeling that you had a good time. Might as well have some fun at their expense.”
And you won’t have to worry about seeing these people at next year’s party. Your invitation will be lost in the mail.