February 14, 2009

The Saga of the Virtual Cocktail Party.

Posted in Lush Life at 10:39 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

Warning: This post does eventually talk with some specificity about drinking and alcoholic beverages. If you have a problem with alcohol consumption, maybe it would be wisest to skip it. Just don’t want to catch you off-guard.    —GES

I have made a grand entrance at my new web 2.0 existence.

Last night, I “attended” a virtual “cocktail party,” courtesy of our lovely hostess at the Mommy Needs a Cocktail blog. In some ways it was more like a virtual Tupperware party or candle party or Southern Living party (although I won’t say it went all the way into sex toys party territory); by attending, we all received access to a 30% off discount code good for purchases of fabulous Mommy Needs a Cocktail products at her online store. Our job was to pour ourselves a drink and veg out in front of a movie, laptop at the ready for posting our cocktail party chatter to the party’s Facebook wall, or, alternatively, its Twitter feed. Couldn’t be simpler, and I had an excellent excuse to participate, in that Mr. Unfocused was going to be off feigning hipness at the AWP Conference (I don’t even know what that stands for, honestly), hanging out with a bunch of young MFA-candidate writers talking about things like quantum narrativizing or some other kind of ridiculous writery shit for people who haven’t managed to get out in the real world much. I’ll let him blog about all that, as I only received a hazy explanation of everything when he arrived home around 1 am last night. Or, more accurately, his explanation was clear; it was my sleepy, cocktail-addled brain that was hazy.

So it was just me and the kids last night, and with Junior still in recovery from his hideous stomach virus we weren’t going out anywhere. There was nothing in the world to stop me from attending a virtual cocktail party if I so chose, and since I think Mommy Needs A Cocktail is right up there with Mimi Smartypants (especially in her Twitter feed), and very, very close to Poppy Buxom in my blog-hero universe, I embraced the spirit of the evening with gusto.

The party was scheduled to begin at 7 pm eastern time. Being in the Midwest, that meant that I would have to be ultra-organized in order to be there in the earliest moments of the festivities. It being a virtual party I did not have to go through the painful process of identifying the clothes remaining in my closet that a) are clean; b) are festive; and c) do not make me look like a tightly stuffed sausage; nor did I have to suffer through any plucking of unruly eyebrows, or poking my eyes with the contact lenses I wear with less and less frequency, or attempting to make my hair look chic and sophisticated (a difficult process when one hasn’t bothered to get a hair cut in just about a year now—I have clearly totally given up, isn’t it pathetic?). And the savings of all that time required to attain any level of physical fabulousness should have made it simple to be at the ready, cocktail in hand, at 6 pm.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t factored in the fact that, in Mr. Unfocused’s absence, I would be solely responsible for caring for the children. At about 5:58 I had a “Shit! They need to eat something! I need to eat something!” moment, and on went the pot of water for spaghetti noodles. I had some homemade sauce in the freezer (aren’t I domestic?), so that went into the microwave. How about a fruit or vegetable? Oh, right, there are those grapes I bought the other day, before the plague hit our house—those are still good. And don’t I have a bag of frozen green beans? Awesome! It’s not like the kids are going to eat those anyway, so they’ll just be for me then. It’s all going to come together, and I’ll have that cocktail in no time.

Yes. Well. I scrambled around, getting dinner ready. It didn’t take too long, of course, but that party was getting started and I didn’t want to miss any of it. I don’t get out much, you see.

Fortunately, I was able to engage the kids in the whole getting-ready-for-dinner process because I had an ace in my pocket. On my most recent trip to Target I had picked up in the $5 movie section a copy of Turbo: A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie; upon hearing that it would be a quick dinner followed by pajama movie night (and not just any movie night, but a Power Rangers movie night), those two kids started scrambling to clean up the afternoon’s projects like crazed squirrels foraging the last of the nuts right before the snowstorm hits.

My original target had been to have dinner finished and the movie started by 6:30, so as not to keep the kids up too late. And also because the earlier the kids went to bed the earlier I could be fully participating in virtual socializing. And besides, who can watch the entire 6 hours of the BBC Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice miniseries in one night when you don’t start until 10 pm? Yep. An early bedtime for the Unfocused children. Because Mommy Needs a Cocktail. This mommy has had very, very few cocktails in recent years; a major (and highly unusual) bourbon-soaked debacle at our block party two years ago has not yet faded from my memory, inspiring a good measure of personal restraint, cocktail-wise. And because I am a hermit (crab, that is; sign: Cancer) at heart, and rarely leave the house. Except to drive my kids to school. And you really aren’t supposed to mix that with cocktails.

But back to my evening. Dinner eventually got on the table, at which point I alternated paying attention to my children and posting my attempts at witty cocktail-party chatter on the internet. I was a little late, but apparently sufficiently on time to be the first door prize winner of the night (can you believe it??). I won a cocktail shaker and martini glass combo, so as to further my at-home cocktail pursuits. It was all pretty exciting for someone as sheltered as I. An internet miracle, as far as I’m concerned.

It was just about that time that dinner was finally over, and the Power Rangers takeover of our basement was upon us. I set the kids up with their movie and dashed back upstairs to clean up the dishes and do a little more virtual participating—but I was still, sadly, cocktailless. As I chased around in my manic, schizophrenic state, I came to the disappointing conclusion that, really, I should have hired a damn babysitter and just gone into hiding in the study.

This was about when I hit the online MNAC store (officially it’s Baby Brewing) with my 30% off coupon; it seemed only fair that since she had gone to the trouble to host the party (not to mention the fact that I was a winnah!) I should pick something up. I put two t-shirts and a coffee mug in my cart and went to check out, only to have an error message flash at me. I tried a couple more times, thinking it was probably my crappy internet access acting up again, but soon figured out that it was more likely a case of server overload due to 290 liquored-up ladies trying to buy cute micro-sized baby-doll t-shirts all at the same time. Sure enough, I shortly discovered a message from the organizer on the party’s FB wall; it said that everyone’s orders were crashing, and could we please be patient. No problem, of course; patience is my middle name, and I had to go pay at least some attention to my kids and the Rangers of Power. Down into the basement I went, pajamas in hand, because the kids were starting to feel cheated of the whole PJ-centered part of pajama family movie night (and I think a little bit cheated of the “family” part as well, to be perfectly honest).

After the kids had achieved pajama-y goodness I raced back upstairs to check back in at the party. While I was there, the phone rang. Who should it be but Mommy4Cocktails herself! She wanted to check in about my order because of the whole server-crashing thing; the poor lady had had a really bad day already (including taking her son to the emergency room for stitches, and her husband’s truck hitting a skunk), and now she had a full-blown internet maelstrom happening with the virtual equivalent of 290 women asking, “Where’s the dip?” in her living room. She was as lovely as could be hoped, and I was more than a little dazzled at the finding myself talking IRL on the phone with an Internet Celebrity (my head is, it must be confessed, somewhat easily turned). I gave her my credit card number and my blessing, and then India was calling her on the other line to help sort out the whole server-crashing problem, and my brush with greatness was over.

But you will note that, throughout all this, I still did not have a cocktail. I was talking the talk online pretty effectively—when we were on the phone and I was radiating giddiness Mommy asked wistfully (she’s pregnant) about how many cocktails I had had already that evening—but it was all a sham. I was at home in my pajamas, but as long as my kids were awake, I was the designated driver.

It wasn’t long before I was snuggled up on the couch with the kids and my laptop. Good thing, too—things had gotten a little worrisome for the gang from Angel Grove, so the kids needed someone to hug. I kept up my comment stream, and even had a few interactions with other people, but I suffered from that perennial social dilemma—I didn’t know anyone else at the party. I received some nice messages of congratulation on my fantastic door prize win, which was nice. I also was able to share information on the web-crash situation and Mommy’s phone call to India, which simultaneously calmed the masses and (this is key) established my cocktail party social cred (because I had actually spoken to our hostess). But even so, I began to feel increasingly aware of not being part of the crowd. Others had arrived in multiples, and I was a single.

But it didn’t really matter. The Power Rangers triumphed and it was time to get the kids to bed. I logged a comment that I would be offline for a bit, then headed up with the kids for toothbrushing and face washing. Then, the Power Rangers not having been sufficient entertainment for the evening, a request was made for another chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Part of me really wanted to just go downstairs and finally have that long-promised cocktail, but the part of me that knows the difference between that which is virtual and that which is real asserted herself, and I stepped into the role of the White Witch gladly.

With that, the kids were finally abed, and three and a half hours into the party, I was poised to have my cocktail. But I had yet to decide what to have. The easiest thing would have been a glass of wine, but that is simply not a cocktail. Champagne was considered and dismissed for the same reason (although I believe there is almost never a wrong occasion to enjoy a glass of Champagne). I am still leery of bourbon, even though it is my drink of choice (a Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned, please); it’s a little too easy to get carried away. It was too late at night to do anything stupid, and, really, I was drinking alone, so I knew that drinking light was the sensible thing. I decided on a shot of Perle de Brillet (a pear cognac) topped with Pellegrino water and settled in with the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film, as I no longer had any hope of making it substantially through the BBC version. I should have known that in Jane Austen vs. the Power Rangers is not exactly a fair fight.

Now I was finally fully prepared to engage in Virtual Cocktail Partying. I logged on and (following the lead of everyone else at the party), announced what I was drinking. This was a mistake, for when one takes one’s first drink three and a half hours after a party has started, everyone else is likely to be quite a bit farther along with things. I could hardly pay attention to Keira Knightley and her stunning cheekbones as I followed the increasingly drunken comments which were unfolding online, including a couple of questions and vaguely unfriendly observations about my drink of choice. I had one nice defender, but the ladies who were at this point discussing bong usage (among other things) were simply louder. Frequently making their inebriated points IN ALL CAPS. I hunkered down and limited my comments but didn’t want to be a party pooper, so when I poured a second one (remember, this was a very light drink) I commented, “Light cocktail strategy working thus far. Feeling no guilt about refills.” And then someone came back with a request for me to stop showing off; in her defense, there was a LOL in the message somewhere. But, hey, showing off about what? The fact that I was not wasted? The fact that I could continue to put together a coherent sentence? I have no idea. It probably wasn’t intended to be mean-spirited, and the internet makes it hard to communicate emotional subtext. But, I don’t know, combined with the general uglification of the dialogue as the night grows longer, it just felt kind of hurtful. I was at my fabulous virtual cocktail party, but by the end of the night I was still standing in the virtual corner of the room.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a fun experience overall, and I’m grateful to Mommy Needs a Cocktail for pulling it together. However, cocktail parties are what they are—it’s tough to find a lot of meaning in one, but at least you can count on the little black dresses, even if they are virtual. But the main lesson here is a pretty simple one: if you’re going to wait until 3 1/2 hours into the party to take your first drink, be prepared to find amusement in the tipsy escapades of others. And, by the way, lighten up! It’s a cocktail party!



  1. crankygirl said,

    Thanks for the bday wishes! You are obviously akin to Harriet in the beautifully-written-fun-to-read blog entries. It’s good to have you in blogland.

  2. The Lass said,

    Sounds more like cocktails with a bunch of snarky teenaged girls. The temptation for me would have been to type something like, “Oh shit, I gotta go – just dropped the baby on his head again.”

  3. crankygirl: What a lovely welcome! Being likened to Harriet is high praise indeed.

    Lass: No, it wasn’t really like that, I was just feeling sensitive at the end. And, really, if I had typed “just dropped the baby on his head again,” I’m guessing that would probably have sufficed to make me totally the life of that particular party. Come to think of it, I should have channelled you for full virtual cocktail party success. How could they have resisted me then?

  4. harri3tspy said,

    I poked my head into the cocktail party at one point, decided everyone was too sloshed and left immediately. But then, the only cocktail parties I’ve ever really enjoyed are the ones that you host, so perhaps it is the idiom that was my problem. Or the fact that I started drinking far too late.

  5. Jeanne said,

    Let’s have a virtual champagne party sometime, and pretend we’re all such social butterflies that we can only drop in for a moment or two, long enough to quaff a glass and then be off again…

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