The evite said 7:30 p.m. It was still too light outside to camouflage me, so I waited until 8:00.
And, of course, I couldn't arrive alone - I am not that brave, so I insisted on arriving with two other friends so I didn't have to walk into the house by myself.
The evite arrived several weeks before the event. I'm hesitant to call it a party as it was more educational (some even took notes) and I was reprimanded for not paying attention on more than one occasion. But, the atmosphere was certainly as jovial as a party with alcohol shots and delicious spiked punch being offered as soon as we walked in the door. The air was laden with an uneasy giddiness and an instant camaraderie amongst attendees. We were going through this together: united we stand and all that jazz.
As the first houses built in our neighborhood are approximately ten years old and the last houses built are now approximately six years old, most of us still have that close new neighborhood bond. Sure, some of the original gang moved to other communities and even other states, but most of that group of bright-eyed new construction home-owners are still here.
We moved to this neighborhood seeking newly constructed affordable houses with a decent amount of square footage in a spiffy new subdivision with freshly poured sidewalks and un-marred paved roads, anchored by a new elementary school within walking distance of all of our homes.
My own home is eight years old, and I have experienced every day of her life with her. My husband and I picked our lot on a large board filled with multi-colored pins in a sales office. We inspected the lot, lovingly photographed each step in the construction process, snuck into walk through the framed bones of our home and even took a Christmas card picture of our past-tense family of four with the framed house behind us. (As many of you have gleaned from my past postings, we are now a family of five.) I was invested in this house and this neighborhood before we ever closed on the property and the moving trucks delivered our belongings.
And many of my neighbors shared that initial sentiment. That first summer was adult summer-camp for our neighborhood. So many of us were stay-at-home mothers with children close together in age and we would travel from front yard to front yard -- the builder only used sod for the front yards and stuck us with muddy back yards filled with seed, giant mutant staples and some kind of gauze-y covering.
We were building friendships between our children and ourselves. Husbands would come home early from work, and many nights we threw together pot luck dinners or ordered pizzas.
Life was so idyllic that first spring, summer and fall. It was my favorite Sesame Street song come to life! "Who are the people in your neighborhood? ... They're the people that you meet each day!"
The weather changed abruptly, and winter moved in with a vengeance. Looking for ways to keep our new magical neighborhood together, we organized playgroups and signed up for classes together. We also discovered an excellent excuse for hosting a "home party."
When we first moved to our suburban hamlet, I was completely unfamiliar with home parties. As a city dweller, I had never experienced one nor been invited to attend one. I quickly discovered that there are many companies selling an array of products such as housewares, jewelry, spices and mixes, home decorating items, etc. During November - March, my neighbors and I were prime targets for eager consultants, especially because in those early days of home parties we were so willing to help our new friends and neighbors.
The consultants could smell the blood in the water and would pull us into a corner and earnestly plead,
"Well, Crystal, let me just tell you that your neighbor, Sally, only needs one more person to sign up to host a party next month. If you would please host a party, you would help Sally earn extra rewards and credits from this party. And we both know that Sally really deserves extra hostess rewards, right? Can you help her out and host a party next month?"
Yikes! Who could say no to that, especially when I really liked my new friend Sally?
And so, each winter month, we rotated houses, hosting parties for each other. We poured into that month's hostess's house, desperate for any excuse to leave the kids and spouse at home and drink too much wine on a weeknight. I earnestly told my husband that these parties were great crime prevention tools because it was vital for neighbors to stay connected.
Sure, it meant that I would spend money on silly things that I really didn't need, but really $50 was a meager sum to pay for a safe neighborhood, right?
None of these ever-evolving home parties ever prepared me for that Friday night in April when I snuck incognito into a house similar to mine, praying that no one outside the house recognized me as I entered.
Thankfully, the front door was unlocked, and I could quickly entered without waiting for the hostess to greet me. (Another bonus to living in our neighbor's pockets is that we really treat everyone's house as our own. Come right in! Whatever you find to eat or drink is yours as long as you help yourself to it.) I quickly discarded my coat and shoes and was promptly greeted by my dear friend and hostess, who blessedly already had a drink for me in her hand.
I glanced down at the decorative straw and grimaced, already this party was unlike the others.
To further punctuate the foreign feeling, I was instructed to place my $25 (Cash only, please!) on a dish reserved for the consultant. I joined the rest of the party guests, awkwardly forcing conversation while nervously glancing at each other and the door, waiting for the party consultant to arrive. What would she look like? What would happen next? What did I get myself into this time?
The phone rang, and I stepped closer to the party hostess to eavesdrop. "I'm just waiting on one more person to arrive. OK. See you soon." The conversation did not put me at ease. Why was the consultant not at the party already? Why was she waiting for all the guests to arrive before making an entrance? My friend just shrugged and poured me another drink.
Another friend from the neighborhood arrived. And, then, as if she was lurking outside in an unmarked vehicle parked inconspicuously along the curb, our party consultant arrived.
She was wearing what could best be described as "lounge-wear" sweat pants, athletic shirt and shoes with barely visible make-up and little jewelry.
Upon first appearances, she certainly did not inspire a great deal of confidence, carrying grocery bags filled with supplies. We were instructed to refresh our drinks and take our seats. I quickly noticed the new objects on a tray: mysterious bottles of product and an impossibly large, rigid replica of male genitalia. My gag reflex automatically kicked in and I quickly finished my drink and scurried to the kitchen for a refill.
Some of us giggled. Others quietly communicated non-verbal messages to each other. I squeezed my body into a rather small space between two close friends for comfort and slipped easily into my diffuse-all-awkward-situations-with-wildly-inappropriate-remarks role.
The consultant's eyes met mine and narrowed. She knew that I would be trouble. She made the necessary introductions, which only quadrupled the amount of questions that I had for her but would never ask: What were her qualifications? What was her training? Does she have customer testimonials? What are the hostess benefits? Was this a part of some kind of Community Service agreement to help Suburban Housewives? How exactly does she state this job on a resume?
She passed around packets of information (our textbooks for the evening) and pencils for those who wanted to take notes.
One would think that our smaller group of neighbors and cohorts would have been more prepared. Sure, we had attended years of mundane home parties with perfectly coiffed, over-eager consultants. However interspersed among the years, we have also had our share of those other kind of parties, too.
Most of my friends have been married to the same man for 10 years or longer. We are in committed, loving, long-term, 'til-death-do-us-part relationships. But we also share the belief that to stay together sometimes certain things need to be spiced up a bit, so we have also over the years hosted some unique home parties, too. Yes, I am talking about the Surprise! parties with the SHHH!! emblazoned on the evite or paper invitation offering "marital aids" lubricants, balms, lotions, etc. We knew whom to invite to those parties and whom to avoid -- for they were certainly not for the overly-prude, stuffy or embarrassed easily guests. Hosts had also learned the value of greeting guests with an adult drink in hand.
All of these precautions did help ease the initial tension for this new kind of party, but no one was really prepared when our consultant opened her bag and passed out the bananas and began our instruction.
School was in session and we were about to learn . . . Fellatio Techniques.
We were asked to open our packets. It was time for class to begin. First we were asked our knowledge about male erogenous areas outside of the "underwear area." We were instructed to take notes in our packets (there would be a quiz for a prize later) and we began our study of all things male. Some furiously scribbled notes. A few brave women even shared anecdotes and tips of their own. Others whispered and giggled through the presentation.
I continued along with my inappropriate-crude-class-clown role. Really, I don't have any other coping mechanisms to rely on, and I was so fish-out-of-water that night.
The 11 guests and hostess were split into three groups. It was time for the technical application of newly learned skills portion of the evening. Ladies, please unpeel your bananas.
Our consultant demonstrated each technique on her banana and then each group would mimic the technique for the rest of us. We were all asked to perform the skills and given a chance to ask questions and critique each other. The evening went downhill very quickly. Bananas were broken or snapped in half; alcoholic punch was spilled on the carpet; laughter and crude jokes erupted. Our consultant kept pushing forward with our instruction.
The quiz was administered. Prizes were awarded. (No shocker when I went home empty-handed.) The consultant left with approximately $300 cash in hand for an hour's worth of work, but not before informing us of an upcoming lap-dancing class. Of course, we would be interested! We continue to talk about that night weeks later.
Would I attend another? Absolutely! Sure, there really was no new information as all of the "instruction" can be gleaned from any issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, and I have been a subscriber for almost a dozen years. However, I would gladly pay $25 (Cash only, please!) for another night of bawdy jokes, fabulous drinks and the opportunity to drink out of a scary looking penis straw with my dearest friends.
Let's just pray that our kids never find our packet of information. I really don't want to have to explain that to them until their wedding night or my death bed. Cheers!