What a night I’ve had!
After my time with the fam (including a bit of a temper tantrum at IKEA when I realized I wouldn’t have time to get a new coat, the thought of which was the only thing sustaining me through the merciless overnight lows), I went into the city for a party and catching up with my friend Cathy.
We went to school together, but didn’t really know each other until just before she was due to graduate. (It is a peculiar hallmark of my life that the time just before something ends is usually marked by a ridiculous flowering of friendships, parties, and unforgettable moments; I have very high hopes for my nineties as a result.) Since she left New College and I limped my way through my last year and then fled, we’ve been in sporadic touch (I heart Facebook); I missed her last time I was in the city, but this time I had a more leisurely stay, and this party seemed like the perfect opportunity to hang out.
Her apartment is delightful; when I arrive she and her friend Andrew (who I thought she was dating for approximately the first four-fifths of the evening) are in the middle of putting two new chairs together and reorganizing everything. Since I moved to Boston and began to live in the kind of forced asceticism that comes when everything you own was either laboriously shipped to you or procured in the last six months, I have begun to luxuriate in clutter. I love it; I find it perplexingly inspiring. Since Cathy’s clutter is surrounded by my favorite things (oversized furniture and lamps, elaborately quirky assemblages, sweet and forgotten details), it was a lovely way to recharge.
The apartment that the party was in is an exercise in a whole other type of luxury. The entire thing is mid-century modern, top to toe, which was really impressive even as it brought home to me the fact that I don’t actually want my home to look like a museum to 1962. I walked in and felt like an awkward wallflower, which is par for the course. But somehow during the course of the evening, I stopped being afraid. One of the things I do very well to remember is that nobody knows everybody, and that on some level we are all a little off our balance at parties. When I realized that, I fell into the mood of it and ended up disporting myself like Holly Golightly (without having to escape out a window in the end).
I think that at a certain point, the number of people I talked to who said something to the extent of “I don’t know any of these bitches, and I’m a little awkward too – and also I am scared I will somehow ruin that original Miró on the wall over there” finally reached a critical mass, and I started to relax into my own skin. This party was also different from Boston parties in that the meat market portion of the evening was entirely absent.
Midway through I realized that people were relating to me – and therefore I was relating to myself – as more of a person than a commodity. There was none of that sense of needing to be overtly sexual to be remotely interesting. It may that Boston is too much a college town, or it may be (and probably is) that I’m just going to the wrong parties, but it is rare that I’ve ended up this comfortable in my own skin at a Beantown fete. Cathy’s boyfriend came over and then got a little sick, and Andrew had left, so I ended up having to go back up to the party by myself and it was just as lovely. I’ve learned my lesson about moving to cities based on how much fun I have at parties while I’m there, but this was lovely; exactly the kind of slightly zany but mostly peaceful evening I needed to push my excitement about this weekend into high gear.
Around 2 am, I found myself on a balcony in a borrowed, holey sweatshirt discussing urban theory with a redheaded smoker. It was on the side of the building that looked out on N Street Northwest, which runs into 14th (which runs into Pennsylvania like a river meeting the White House or the sea). Both sides of N are one way, spilling their contents into the thoroughfare that is 14th street; I spoke passionately, if increasingly soberly, about the tension inherent on these street corners, the taut vibrant membrane of the city stretched over its grid system and loaded with potential.
People were so proud to discuss their metropolis, that night and since I’ve touched down here. There is such an interesting feeling: of suppressed excitement, of expectation, of love and of wonder and luck and the thrill of being in this city, on this night, young and alive, newly old enough to comprehend the history we are making, but still new and green and lovely enough to claim it as our birthright in the end.