The Definitive Guide to Surviving Any Kind of Party

The authors of the hilarious book You Blew It! talk us through work parties, house parties, and everything in between.
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The authors of the hilarious book You Blew It! talk us through work parties, house parties, and everything in between.
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“Humankind is doomed. Especially you.” That’s the premise of Joe Berkowitz and Josh Gondelman’s hilarious quasi-self help book, You Blew It!: An Awkward Look at the Many Ways in Which You've Already Ruined Your Life. The book, out October 6th, is both a guide for dealing with friends, family, roommates, and romantic partners — and a reminder of every faux pas you’ve committed in your life. Fun! We’ve excerpted the Party Downers chapter, below. You can order the book here.

When adults use the word “party" as a verb, sadly they’re never talking about bouncy castles, close-up magic, or any other classic party ingredients. Instead, it usually just means getting fugue-state wasted in any setting at all. A squatting hermit, for instance, could spend the saddest evening imaginable sniffing glue  in a dimly lit crawl space and be said to have par­tied pretty hard. Using the term this way is fitting, though, since parties are indeed highly intoxicating but also scary and terrible.

The slick surface of the parties glimpsed in movies and the entire discography of Pitbull is not as it appears.  It's actually littered with anxiety land mines that can detonate whether stepped on  by  you or  by an almost  complete stranger with  whom  you can't seem  to end a conversation. 

The danger begins immediately. You walk in and  an entire room   might   introduce itself  at  once,  everyone reciting their names like the Sound of Music kids, even though you've forgotten these  names  before  they even  hit  your  ear  canal. Either that  or you  find  you're  the  first to  arrive-an eyewitness to  the  slow, gradual birthing process,  which  can  be  as painful  for  the  observer   as walking  into  an  actual  delivery room  right  on  time. And that's just the beginning! There's an entire party left to foul, and, unlike Las Vegas, what happens at a party not only doesn't stay there,  it echoes for an eternity. (Actually, the same goes for what happens in Vegas. That expression is horseshit.)

Work Parties

What is it?

Going to an office party can be like getting drafted into a long­ form improv scene that goes on forever and alienates the audience. Everyone is trying  to act like they've shown  up of their own free will, and they do not quite have this acting thing down yet.

Can I skip it?

No, you cannot.  These fun, lighthearted romps are mandatory.

What do I bring?

Not much, besides an immunity to small talk that is small on a microbial level.

How much do I drink?

The amount you'd consume on a first date, unless your first dates are often held at Pittsburgh sports bars.

What's the quickest way to ruin it?

Since your boss will indeed observe it through the Great Eye of Sauron  if you're  on your phone the whole time, mingling is highly  encouraged. But not everybody in this ragtag unit is a master at the art of mingling (a Mingleangelo), and so there are inevitably lulls in each conversation. This is where  you're  most  likely  to say  the  kind  of things  that  inspire hilarious orientation videos.  Avoid that out­come at all costs.  Be more boring than you usually are.  Talk about work, even though everybody thinks they hate that.

House Party

What is it?

A house party; unlike most gatherings, actually is every party you see in the movies. Too many people.  Too loud music. Too much drinking.  It's a parody of fun. But sometimes also super fun.

Can I skip it?

Yes. Absolutely.  No one will ever know. Every house party is like every other house party. Your memory basically files them all in one booze-soaked montage. If you're in the mood for a house party, show  up. If you're not, don't. FOMOHP (Fear of Missing Out on a House Party) is negligible because you know exactly what you'd be getting.

What do I bring?

A reasonable guideline is "as much as you're going to drink, times   two."  But  you  can  get  away  with  showing up  empty­ handed if you don't mind  drinking cheap  beer  and eating corn chips with  no salsa or guacamole. Side note: Once you are older than twenty-five, Sam Adams is the minimum acceptable beer. No more Natural Ice or Milwaukee's Best. Those are for disciplinary beer bonging, and child shoplifters.

How much do I drink?

As much or as little as it takes.

What's the quickest way to ruin it?

Destroy someone's private property. Knock over a vase. Spill a drink on a white couch.  Clog a toilet.  Your options are limit­less.

Holiday Parties

What is it?

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or that  time of year that wasn't quite as wonderful for you as it was for the other kids, because of your parents' personal faith,  but you're  an adult  now so anything goes, Dad.

Can I skip it?

Yes. Nobody likes to admit  he  or she  is  just fielding  offers before  making a shrewd  executive decision, but everyone does that.  The  holiday season  is  Shark  Tank: Your  friends  are  the sharks, and you are the guy who invented a way to turn  the gratuitous nudity on Game of Thrones into  clean-burning energy.

You've got options.

What  do I bring?

Wine, side dish, childlike sense of wonder. More important, though, the right  outfit. If you show  up for  Halloween in plain clothes or Cinco  de Mayo without your formal  sombrero, you'll be guilty of dress code insubordination. If it's an Ugly Christmas Sweater  shindig,  though, wear whatever  feels most  comfortable while  looking for  some  new  friends.

How much do I drink?

Until  you sweat eggnog.

What's the quickest way to ruin it?

Unleash your food issues on the party like an airborne nerve agent. 

Dinner Party

What is it?

A dinner party is real adult social interaction. It is composed of food  and  wine  and conversation. It takes  place  at someone's house  but is definitely not a "house party." Generally, a dinner party  is big enough that  you  may  not  know  some  people but small  enough that  you'll  have  to  talk  to  them  anyway.  Dinner guests  will all be using  their  indoor voices.

Can I skip it?

You'll  need   a  pretty solid  excuse.  It's  likely  you'll   have RSVP'd  by  phone  or e-mail, which,  unlike  a Facebook  invitation, means  people are actually counting on your  attendance.

What do I bring?

A bottle  of wine is a safe bet. It says: "I plan to enjoy fifteen to twenty-five dollars' worth  of your  company tonight." A potluck dinner is a different story. You don't  want to underdo it and  bring  mac  and  cheese  from  a box. At  the  same  time,  you don't want to go overboard and  roast  a pig if other  people  are showing up with a bag of Funyuns.

How much do I drink?

Read  the room  and keep pace  with  the other guests. Err on the  side of, "I know all these  people and ostensibly want to remember this night."

What's the quickest way to ruin it?

Offend someone's significant other.

***

Josh Gondelman is a writer and a comedian in Manhattan, where he currently works as a writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO.

Joe Berkowitz is a writer living in Brooklyn. He is an editor and staff writer at Fast Company, covering entertainment and pop culture, and he writes other things elsewhere.

Adapted from You Blew It! An Awkward Look at the Many Ways in Which You've Already Ruined Your Life by Josh Gondelman and Joe Berkowitz. Reprinted by arrangement with Plume, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright ©2015 by Josh Gondelman and Joe Berkowitz.

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