Party Favors  
by: Sonia Kumar (

Lately, whenever I go to parties, I end up people watching more than partying. Could be that I’m getting older, or that I’m hanging out with more and more couples (effectively becoming a third wheel, or fifth wheel, or seventh wheel…) Last weekend, I ended up at yet another event where I walked in with four people, two couples, and was eventually left standing by the bar.

Not much of a drinker, I grabbed a water and gazed out at the room. There were guys checking out girls. Girls checking out guys. A DJ spinning music I wasn’t sure how one was supposed to dance to. There were people on the dance floor of various dancing ability. Some white people doing some mystical-poses- sort of dance. Some Asians and desis just sort of vibrating along. A couple of people were getting really into the music and doing some really interesting moves. Unfortunately not to any beat I could recognize. Seems to be a rule that no matter how large the gathering, if the music is techno-Indian, then there can be only one person in the room who looks like they are doing the right thing. As for the rest, they can be excused for their dancing as long as they are do it earnestly and are having a good time.

You always end up seeing people you know at these things. Friends of friends. Someone you met at a party like this. People you have run into through work. When you see them, you have to plaster a look of delight on your face and give them a hug. Ask them how they are, What have they been up to, Compliment them on what they are wearing/doing/saying. Then you have to answer these question yourself. You have to smile and says Thanks. Then you part company so that one of you can get a drink and the other can go say hi or look for someone. You won’t see this person again until the next party. You probably won’t have contact with these people otherwise. They are not your usual set of friends, and yet we carry on in this manner every time.

If you are standing alone, eventually someone will come up to you. Sometimes it is your best friend’s boyfriend who thinks of you like a sister and thinks it’s his personal responsibility to make sure you have a “good time,” a good time being code for “meet someone.” And if you tell him you’re fine just chilling by the bar, he won’t believe you and will try to drag you onto the dance floor where his girlfriend/fiance/wife will be and they both will dance around you like a pair of over-involved parents. They will push and pull you, trying to get you to “loosen up,” until they catch sight of one another and realize it has been a full five minutes since they have “been alone” and will effectively forget you as they scurry off.

Other times, it’ll be another lone barfly with whom you can have a good conversation berating the venue, music, people….that is until you feel stupid for paying $15 cover just to get into a partying you end up complaining about. You start to think the other barfly is weird because he/she was by himself/herself and doesn’t have anything positive to say. You decide to get away from Mr./Ms. Negativity.

Once in awhile, you get approached by a member of the opposite sex who thinks you’re either a) good looking b) a nice person c) or most likely human and alive and thus fair game.

These dears approach you with classic lines like, “So, are you here alone” “What do you think of the music/venue/party?” “Don’t I know you from somewhere” “Why aren’t you dancing?” Nice of them to always use the same lines, makes it easier to spot them. Usually they are easily dispatched with the sophisticated response of silence. Some will start to pester you, and that is when you find your couple friends and insert yourself between them like the third wheel you are.

And once in a very, very odd while, you will be approached by a nice person. This usually occurs toward the end of the night, so you can assume he either got their late because bless-his-heart he was working, or that he was watching you for most of the evening before he got the courage to come up to you. The two of you will have a nice conversation, one that is not cynical, coy, flirtatious, or false. You will learn enough about him to make you interested to hear more. And you will be on the verge of agreeing to obtain contact info from him when your already coupled friends will arrive at the bar, tired and cranky, your girlfriend will fling an arm around you and tell you how much her feet hurt and aren’t you glad you don’t have a boyfriend who steps on them on the dance floor. Her boyfriend will order one final drink and retort in such a way that a fight will surely ensue. And you untangle them, and agree to drive everyone home. In the meantime, you have become too shy to ask the Nice Guy for his contact information and you catch his eye as you are ushered out of the party, but you don’t even know his last name.