Good day one and all, and a fine day it is, indeed. I’m your host, Jonathan O’Guin, bringing you a never-before-seen opportunity! As I was wandering the streets of my home town late at night, in a desperate hunt for Haunters, I rounded a corner onto a children’s little League field. Immediately, I was worried. A bearded grown man wandering in such a place at night is certainly someone’s nightmare, and I was instantly concerned I would be arrested. For what, I couldn’t guess, but I intrinsically felt like this was exactly the kind of thing weird loners get arrested for. Luckily, no cops showed up, and instead, a swirling vortex of crimson energy opened. As any sane man would, I began feverishly attempting to recall if I had had any drugs that evening. I hadn’t, I was certain, which meant the portal must be real. And from it emerged…well…This guy.
You’re not a Haunter. Goddamn it, Pokémon GO. First 80 goddamn Pidgeys, now this?
I was once again worried. If one bearded guy alone in a little league field is going to get arrested, then one bearded man, and one loony with a top hat were going to Super-Prison. The man glanced about, noted me, and walked forward.
“Excuse me, sirrah, but I must ask, do you speak English?”
Now, I have many bad traits, among which are a predilection for obsession with past grammars, and pride. So the most important fact to me, in that moment, was not that a man had just emerged from some dimensional doorway, but that the asshole was talking down to me. I challenged him on his use of “sirrah”, and he quickly explained he was a time traveler, having jumped here from the year 1886, to see the turning of the century here in 1899, England. Which lead me to correct him that he had arrived in 2016, America, and that maybe HE was the “sirrah” around here, if he could jump 130 years when he meant to jump 13.
Needless to say, this provoked quite a bit of consternation from the man. In the end, he had to stay at my place for a few days while he re-calibrated his device to take him home, and, I thought, “Hey, free blog post.” So I convinced him to help me write an etiquette guide for summer parties, because, as I convinced him “Now that hunger, disease, and war are but distant memories, properly conducting festivities remains the only challenge we face.” (I may have slightly embellished our modern achievements.)
“What great wonders your world has unleashed!” “It’s not all great. Wait till you see a Double Down.”
So, I shall now reproduce for you, my faithful readers, his instructions and directions, with notes from my own experience and learning presented in italics afterwards.
Also, Good Lord Victorian speech patterns rub off on you.
As does the Coal dust.
“Well, firstly, I must recount the wisdom of Lady Contance Howard, and note that three things must be managed for a gathering to reach its fullest potential: Firstly, a guest list of diverse talents and abilities, second, knowledge of the connections of the guests and prudence in their mixture, and lastly, the food itself should be of the best quality you can reasonably afford. The first provides the guests a variety of topics to discuss, where each may feel competent and composed. The second prevents vexation of spirits; few things are as socially trying as arriving at a party to discover that one’s recently forsaken paramour is present, and is to sit across from you the entire meal. I mention the guests twice because, too often, the wealthy confuse a well-appointed room with a well-maintained party. The people that attend are what makes a party truly enjoyable. As to the food, a simple but sustaining meal will be more than enough, so long as the people are engaged, but an overtly cheap one may move them to mock your hospitality.”
I will confess to taking a perverse joy in seeing the second piece of advice here go unheeded. Watching a party explode outward as two exes make a sudden, violent show of their discontent is something of a spectator sport for me. And while I like the advice of finding a mix of talents, I would rephrase it to “Find out what your guests’ talents are”. Most people have at least two or three interesting things about them, and directing conversations to those points allows them a chance to shine. As to the food, I’ve always taken the approach that care trumps cost. It doesn’t matter if your spread cost $100 or $10, as long as you’re clearly putting in an effort.
Or at least an effort to disgust. Horrify? Amuse? I don’t know the goal here.
Our friend went on to comment on discussion between the genders: “Chesterfield says, 'Civility is particularly due to all women; and, remember, that no provocation whatsoever can justify any man in not being civil to every woman; and the greatest man would justly be reckoned a brute if he were not civil to the meanest woman. However, remember also that really well bred women will not thank you for making them conspicuous by over officiousness in their defense, unless, indeed, there be any serious or glaring violation of decorum. In small matters, ladies are both able and willing to take care of themselves, and would prefer being allowed to overwhelm the unlucky offender in their own way"
That is…simply stunning advice. And “Overwhelm the unlucky offender in their own way” is perhaps the best description I’ve ever seen for “Let her wreck his shit how she chooses.” Of course, in the modern era, we’ve moved past such sexist beliefs. (Look, if I’m gonna lie to a time traveler, OF COURSE I’m going to KEEP lying to him.) I’d reframe this point to something akin to “Have fun, and be cool.” Play some games, chat about whatever you’re up to that interests you, and don’t pick or commit to fights. Some light-hearted arguing, sure, but if you’re yelling, you’ve crossed a line.
“As to provisions, a more formal dinner would have a different wine with each course, while a simpler one would have a couple cocktails before dinner, a quart of beer for each man with dinner, and a couple cocktails and punch afterward. For a party of 10, say, 2 gallons of beer, 2 quarts of spirits, and 4 bottles of wine?”
That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
NEXT TIME: JON TAKES SOME FRUGAL STEPS WITH FRUIT.