April 13, 2011

The Value of Costumes and A Themed Party

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Preparing for the themed party will feel great. Your friends will be more energetic than usual, especially the token photographers – flashing you with their point-and-shoot cameras incessantly. Getting dressed up will be a nice deviation from the usual weekend night – something a little different than trying to finish an 18-pack before having to get up from the futon in your hoody and jeans. It’s pretty fun too, except for the recurring moments of self-consciousness and regret – which will be especially prominent if there’s a mirror in the room.

People love dressing up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a formal or a mildly racist-themed shindig (Cowboys and Indians!) – superficially leaving your normal identity behind is pretty damn satisfying in the moment, no matter how ignorant you may be.

While making your way to the theme party you’ll feel safe and confident, like no one knows the version of yourself you’re presently taking on. You’ll look ridiculous though, and anxiety will surface. You’ll question if other people are going to be dressed up, and if you went overboard with your costume. Obviously theme parties encourage and validate looking absurd, but it’s important to find a balance – to show that you have (better) places you can go to if the party doesn’t pan out. If you’re fashion-savvy, you might be able to not change anything about your outfit when transitioning from failed theme party to normal-party.

Unfortunately, you won’t be living the routine “I don’t give a shit!” drunk mantra while in costume. You’ll moderate between a pleasant sense of contrived unique-ness and debilitating self-consciousness. Channel these bilateral emotions into getting the most attention possible. The more ridiculous you look, the better shot you have at being the life of the party. There will be more Facebook nightlife photographers present, and it’ll be perfectly acceptable to “bomb” every potentially “good” picture.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re drunkenly confident or extremely self-conscious, you’ll still feel an urge to behave differently than you do on a usual night out. And the best part is, if your costume is good, commonly accepted social institutions stop applying to you. Feel free to dance on tables, acquire free beverages by any means necessary, and consider breaking some stuff.

Just be weary that, depending on the theme, certain parties have a tendency to attract a specific gender. If the ratio’s really bad, leave. Avoid considering staying and drinking away your anxiety and physical discomfort. It’ll be impossible to be content in your costume while in a room full of the same gender, especially when you’re expecting a “party”.

If the party’s remotely “good,” use your costume to meet people. This is crucial. One of the most awkward moments in first-time conversations is the transition from introductions to actually talking about something of substance. This is where the theme (and of course your costume) saves the night. By dressing up, you’ve spoon-fed anyone who sees you an easy way to approach you (or shit-talk you from 80 yards away). It’s the best icebreaker ever.

While using your bountiful your amount of topics for stimulating conversation you should feel pretty good. Just hope that you lose awareness of your outfit – noticing it will only result in more paralyzing (and palpable) self-consciousness.

Work hard at this conversation. Talk about each other’s costumes. Talk shit about the people who didn’t dress up. Be a little jealous of them. Exchange compliments about each other’s wardrobe creativity. Overhear condescending remarks from people who aren’t in costume. Laugh it off. Die a little inside. When people who aren’t dressed up interrupt, make sure to call them out for it, but proceed to act detached and above the party. Say “I don’t know why I dressed up…[I guess because] all my friends did.” The best possible outcome is to find someone who is taking in (and maybe enjoying) the shittiness of the party. Please make an effort with them.

Hopefully you meet someone good, and your go-to conversation piece develops into finding some real common ground. Perhaps easing interaction through superficial external factors is the only way to break through the defensive and judgmental small liberal arts college nightlife culture. If so, you might as well exploit it.

If the party fails, make your way back to your residence as quickly as possible. Try not to let anyone see you – you’ll be especially sensitive about being called a freak by other socially frustrated nightwalkers at this point. Tell yourself that everyone at the party was too drunk to remember who you were, or what you looked like. At least pre-gaming was fun.

PS: Try to wake up early the morning after. Stay close to your computer – you’ll have a lot of photos to untag. TC mark

image – Ray_from_LA
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