2020 words

As had become the tradition among us two, we arrived at the dinner party with one bottle of wine in hand and two in the trunk. Just in case the offerings available would’ve resulted in immediate regret about sharing our party gift. The guests, the majority of whom were strangers to us, immediately zeroed in on the bottle that we brought, and they annihilated it before we got the chance to find glasses for ourselves. With a nod and a wink to the two hosts, we let them in on our secret stash of wine in my car, and we quietly snuck out with four glasses. We silently enjoyed the first few sips in relative peace away from the crowd and their competing conversations.

The crowd for this evening was an odd mix of coworkers from the hosts’ separate workplaces. Ever the eccentric duo, they thought that introducing both bodies of coworkers and bosses would have made for an interesting evening. A broken toilet to come, and a small dog from one co-worker who absolutely could not leave her dog alone at late hours in her condo vomiting in several shoes over the course of the night surprisingly did not upset the couple. They loved it.

What they did not love were the combinations of their more, let’s call them passionate, coworkers. These are the people that others use as an escape from conversations by usually saying, “Oh, you should really meet so-and-so; they also love your, insert, whatever mind-numbing and absolutely irrelevant hobby and or interest.” This is followed by an internal “oh no,” for the more well-versed guests know this means they will be thrown into a conversation with someone who will corner them for as long as they conceivably can. Chances are that they will also be close talkers who love garlic and believe that mouthwash is a scam.

In one corner, we had the vegan who confronted a devoted carnivore. Both had long tortured their offices by turning every conversation into and about their diets and thanks to our delightful hosts, the two of them had been kept separated up until there was a noticeable lull in the festivities. With dinner still about an hour away and the finger food trays starting to look barren, the now-trained focus of the guests started to realize how boring everyone else at the party was and how their workplace was just like every single other normal workplace.

The yoga-toned vegan easily took offence at the Ketogenic diet of the asymmetrical distortion of a human male towering over her. The carnivore equally took offence at how his weight loss, better mental health, and sorry, dear reader, I asked and no one else could remember any other benefits to his diet, but rest assured, there were at least a dozen, that were not being acknowledged. At this point, it was obvious that the hosts had really thrown the party for the few in attendance who were their close friends, just so that they could witness the eerily similar cast of humans that they had to interact with on a daily basis. The vegan had heard from others that I baked vegan cookies and did yoga, and the carnivore knew that I also ate meat. Briefly, they both turned toward me for an unbiased and safe source of support, but then, thankfully, the first round of vomit in a guest’s pair of Hoka trail shoes was discovered.

After dinner, the crowd thinned as those who wore the martyr’s clothing of being parents had to leave; the other parents breathed a sigh of relief. Again, as neutral guests, we were turned to for support, but this time, the dog had not built up enough bile to offer us a distraction.

“For fuck’s sake, please tell me that you two do not have children,” asked a mother whose makeup did little to conceal the guilt of having her husband stay home with her staggering number of children.

“Nope. We’re not a couple,” said my companion.

“We’re just here for the violence,” I replied, to which we laughed, but the mother simply stared at us before launching into her life as a devoted mother. The conversation was pleasant enough for about three minutes until she started insinuating that my friend was being selfish for not being a mother. Without asking why neither of us had kids, I cut the conversation short and thanked her for her time, and we headed straight back to my car with the hosts and two other guests we had forged an alliance with to finish the second bottle of wine we opened for dinner.

Upon our return, we witnessed the small chihuahua eject another round of pastel blurple vomit into another pair of shoes, this time a well-worn loafer whose soles looked as if they were on their last days. As we all put our shoes in a closet that was immediately to be closed, we started wondering what the dog was getting into in order to be able to produce such fashionable shades of puke. The dog’s owner apologized and thought this was the best time for her to leave. All the while being scolded by the first victim dressed like she was about to start an ultra-marathon.

“I’m sorry about your pair of Tecton X2’s,” I said to the runner.

“Thanks,” she replied with glee. The glee was not that someone genuinely showed her some sympathy but that I knew what the model of her pastel purple shoes was called. “So, do you trail run?”

“I used to, but I have drastically scaled back my training over the last year due to a dizzying array of factors that we will not get into here, for I do not want to bore you,” I said, hoping that the kind act of not drawing out a conversation would be reciprocated. I did attempt to guide the conversation toward a related topic that both she and my date could talk about, and that was which smart watch she used in her training.

“I never, NEVER, wear a smartwatch!”

“Ok, that’s great; we’re going to go and see about coffee and…” I said before being cut off.

“The radiation from those electronic devices will give you cancer! I know several people who have died from brain and wrist cancer! There have been several studies recently published that state this to be true!”

This was met with a visible giggle, even from across the room, from the host, who called this person her boss. With this knowledge, we approached the situation with tact until, like the mother before, she started to belittle my friend.

“Take off that Apple Watch, now,” she demanded.

“Sweety,” my friend started. “I cannot take you seriously when your shoes match the pigment of the vomit that is stuck between your nails. Please go wash up.” With that, the runner was off to the washroom, where she proceeded to somehow break the toilet.

Barely having the chance to recover from that conversation, another coworker from the other office approached me with a coffee in his hand. “I couldn’t help overhearing that conversation,” he said to which both I and my friend looked at each other and telepathically said to one another, “No shit.”

“Yeah, a single-floor townhouse in the middle of the city doesn’t afford many opportunities for heated discussions to remain quiet,” I said as I looked at the mug of coffee. I did this in hopes that this man could possibly be kind enough to have brought over a mug of coffee for us after overhearing the conversation, but no. The mug was all his. With our telepathic link still intact, my friend went to the kitchen to hunt for two mugs of black coffee.

“You know, smartwatches are fucking garbage,” he continued as he looked at the Omega watch that I was wearing that evening. He then proudly raised his wrist to show me the Movado dress watch on his wrist. “You know, there is nothing better than a finely made timepiece,” said the middle manager whose career had plateaued during President Obama’s first term. “I have several such fine watches,” I was adamant about remaining silent about being a collector and writing about watches. I nodded my head and said something about that being nice, and I tried to step aside, but he matched my stride and continued to talk about his love for Swiss watches and how all the others were bad. I did not mention how most Swiss watches now have many of their components manufactured in China. He then shifted his monologue about how his passion for dress watches, in particular, only made sense and that the dive watch that I was wearing was useless.

“He’s actually an experienced diver and has worn that watch on several important dives,” said my friend as she returned with two mugs of coffee and the much needed exit. As we turned and fought back rolling our eyes, another guest cut us off with a look of absolute joy.

“You’re a diver?!?!?!”

“Yes, but I do not talk about diving (which was true for most social circumstances, for it just invites many familiar and unimaginative questions, and oddly, a level of attention that borders on a fetish), and my friend and I are now going to the backyard to catch up,” I said, and his posture instantly deflated. As I grabbed the screen door, which, like most screen doors these days, struggled to come to a smooth close, we were grateful to be out of reach from the remaining guests and their many individual passions and lifestyles. For a couple of minutes, we sat in silence and could still overhear one automotive enthusiast rant about how modern cars lack any feel. A television set enthusiast (yes, they exist) is lecturing on appliance reliability and how that mirrors the worst about Western cultures. It just went on.

“Everyone here has something that they desperately want to hold over you as a self-made expert, it seems,” said my friend, who brought out a pack of cigarettes from her clutch.

“You smoke,” I asked, laughing uncontrollably.

“Why is that funny?”

“I’ve known you for a couple of years, and we have been to several of these things. I have never seen you smoke before, and you never smelled like smoke either.”

“I thought you were going to judge me for it. You run, have a healthy lifestyle, and once even mentioned how you saw divers who smoked excessively as irresponsible in that talk about risk mitigation with… you know, that sister of whoever from Ecuador who is an actuarial something or other.”

I realized that the first impression that I made to my friend was costly. Then, desperate to have something in common with the actuarial something or other from somewhere warmer than here, I mentioned how risk in some fields not only puts pressure on the person taking the risk but also on those who are in their immediate surroundings. I came off as the person who had to mention the fact that they were a diver in every single conversation and that my moral system revolved around the activity – just like the annoying guests that we were dodging the entire night. She knew from experience over the last couple of years that this was not true, but that first impression was enough for her to go to great lengths to hide the fact that she smoked.

After we laughed about how ridiculous this was, we both recounted how annoying lifestyle enthusiasts and the judgements they make on others are. We realized the relief we both feel when we genuinely connect with a stranger on matters of life that are truly important. It was then that the hosts came out to the backyard, and we thanked them.

We thanked them for not only giving us a light into the personalities that they have to navigate on a daily basis but for reminding us of what makes a human interaction genuine and valuable. We raised our mugs of black coffee and all thought: to everyone from mechanical watch, mechanical or topre keyboard, film photography, hunting, fishing (oh goodness, men who have every profile photo of them holding up a fish they just caught…), running, yoga, astrology, automotive, a certain political leaning, paternal, and single lifestyle enthusiasts, we have one message for you. This also goes for anything else that you devote way too much time towards and have to tell people about it.

Sincerely, fuck you and your lifestyle.