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Clay's Column


Enjoy The Party, Avoid Jail Time
May, 2010

By Clay Warnick I have a hard time at parties. I’ve rarely seen the hit movies and TV shows folks talk about. It’s tough to hold a plate in one hand, a drink in the other, and shake hands with a third. Mini-ears of corn freak me out.

I find the pressure to impress strangers so oppressive, I generally fall into two, well-known, party stereotypes: I’m either the silent guy in the corner staring at the detail on the wallpaper, or, more often, I’m the shirtless psycho dancing on the table belting out Grand Funk Railroad songs. There’s no in between. And I’ve learned through hard experience that neither persona is useful in winning friends and attracting women.

My party failures make life difficult for me, my family, and everyone I meet at the various celebrations. And after particularly bad party-performances of the shirtless-psycho variety, I often wake in bleary pre-dawn hours to ask myself how I said such ridiculous things and committed such blatant acts of wackitude, yet again.

These post-party self-recriminations are fierce. So fierce, in fact, I’m often compelled to telephone my hosts immediately to apologize for my bad behavior.

I cry into the phone as the clock strikes 4 a.m.: “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to call-your-wife-a-pig/spill-wine-on-your-white-cat/set-fire-to-that-valuable-tablecloth!”

“Who is this?” the host screams, and then lays down a fusillade of multi-syllabic curses and physically-impossible condemnations.

And so I hang up the phone to dwell until dawn on my lack of social skills and the dwindling number of invitations in my mailbox.

Lucky for me, however, there may be a solution to my party perils. Last week, I received an anonymous letter signed “One Who Understands” with a small pamphlet, copywrite 1947, entitled, “Five Tips For Becoming The Life of The Party”.

These simple steps are guaranteed, say the authors, to make me “the man everybody wants to sit next to.” Or at least the man who avoids future legal action.

Here are the helpful tips, along with applications for my own life:

•Tip 1: Don’t Reveal TMI (Too Much Information). Clearly, it was a mistake to tell my wife’s parents about Uncle Mordecai’s human skull collection.

•Tip 2: Don’t Talk About Religion, Politics, or Sex. The Rotarian breakfast was neither the time nor place to mention the good old days in the nudist colony, worshiping Thule, the great goat-god.

Tip 3: Avoid Details in Conversation. I should have noticed the glazed eyes during my three-hour lecture on the dangers of bathroom grout.

Tip 4: Don’t Be Too Self-Important. I promise I’ll never wear my Napoleonic colonel’s uniform to another cocktail party.

Tip 5: Don’t Up-Stage the Guest of Honor. My yodeling demo when the bride entered the wedding reception was a definite no-no.

With these helpful party hints, I’m now a lot more confident about going out in public. In fact, I am fully prepared to get my “groove-thang” on, and “party hearty” without those old fears of arrest and taser burn that once held me back.

In fact, there’s a wedding party coming up this weekend and I’m raring to go with my new strategy. Just hope the bride and groom like Grand Funk Railroad.

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