I’ve found myself at a lot of parties.
It isn’t intentional. But somewhere along the way I picked up a few friends and, when you have friends, they tend to invite you to parties. You have to show up, otherwise they stop inviting you to parties. And, even if you didn’t want to go to any parties in the first place, not being invited to parties sucks.
So, I go to the parties.
If you add up all the hours I’ve spent at parties, there’s at least a month’s worth. A month’s worth of small talk and sore feet and strangely mixed drinks. A month’s worth of squeezing around other people to get to the food and pressing myself into small corners to avoid getting bumped over and over again. A month’s worth of trying not to look at my phone too much, out of fear of looking snobby.
What have all those hours taught me?
I’ve come to realize the secret to a successful party. It’s probably not what you think.
Is it music?
Music is important. Everyone can agree on that. Play it too loud and everyone gets sore throats trying to talk over your aggressively cool, new wave playlist. Play something sincere and you might as well be greeting your guests in your birthday suit. I once went to a 1920s themed party where they played Rat Pack tunes and I’m still bitter all these years later. I find myself complaining about it at the most inappropriate moments, like while my dentist is trying to clean my teeth or at job performance reviews.
But a party can have bad music and still succeed if the crowd is right.
Is the crowd, then?
Getting the right mix of people for a party involves a kind of alchemy. You want a variety of perspectives and experiences, otherwise there’s no electricity, no reason to stay past 9pm. But when a group has nothing in common, there’s no interacting, no blending, no chemistry. You want a few crazy folks to keep things exciting and a few thoughtful types to elevate the conversation beyond the superficial. Then, even if you invite all the right people, there’s no guarantee they’ll be free to attend. Maybe they’re already committed to attending another party, one with better beer.
Because food and drink are also important.
Oh, it’s the food and drinks, isn’t it?
Well, they aren’t as important as the music or the crowd, but they play their role. Having tasty treats does keep people from wandering off in seach of better eats. A curated selection of beer and wine can make guests feel warm and cared for, establishing the party thrower as a person of taste.
But all of these things are not THE thing. The thing that will elevate a mediocre party to greatness. The thing that brings people together, regardless of their religion, political affiliation or taste in movies. The thing that will resuscitate even the stinkiest of parties.
You can fail at every single point listed above and still throw an amazing party if you have this one thing:
All the best parties have cats.
At first guests might notice a flash of something fuzzy running away, or see telltale signs of fur on the couch. At that point they don’t know what it means, but something in the back of their minds struggles to life. They’re more awake. More excited.
Over the course of the party, they might forget there’s a cat in the vicinity. Despite this, the room still buzzes with barely constrained anticipation. Then, it happens. The cat emerges, overcome by curiosity. Someone squeals and the cat runs away. This pattern repeats as many times as the cat chooses.
Eventually, once the party is entirely in its power, the cat comes out to play. There is cooing. There is petting. There might be pouncing or a proffering of the belly. Purring definitely happens.
And, just like that, everyone fortunate enough to exist within that sacred space at that exact time is unified by the magical existence of a cat. Whether guests have had nothing to drink or everything to drink. Whether they’re short or tall. Loud or quiet. For or against gun control.
Fibers of community are tenatively woven and years later, everyone will remember the cat.