As the years passed, my friends converged into ever growing circles of new friends who were people that I didn't know. That was fine. I was still invited to their parties if I was in town. Standing around the beer keg shooting the bull with strangers and maybe a few old familiar faces became the norm. There were always new faces that I encountered and everyone was just plain congenial and welcoming. At the end of the evening I felt like I had made a ton of friends whose names I didn't remember and who I probably wouldn't have recognized the next day if I had run into them somewhere. Yeah, they were those kinds of parties.
Then, there was this New Year's Eve party in the mid 1980s at the home of a housing contractor who I had come to know through some of the parties of the previous few years. I had run into a friend from high school a few days before the party and he invited me to come to it. He told me it was going to be a costume party.
Now, I'm not sure why I knew, but somehow I knew that it was not really going to be a costume party and he was trying to play a joke on me. And I could somehow tell that he could tell that I knew he was trying to trick me but was letting on that I seriously believed that it was going to be a costume party. It's kind of hard to explain the layers of deception in this but we both just knew about the deceptions of the other and played along with it all. I decided that I would go to the party in costume.
On the night of the party I found an out-dated over-sized suit in my father's closet and then had my wife apply some garish pasty looking make-up to my face and touch it all up with lipstick, rouge, and eye make-up giving me a somewhat androgynous appearance. I guess I was going for a David Bowie look but ended up looking like a cross-dressing floozy in a second-hand suit. Whatever it was I looked like, I was not what one would normally see at an East Tennessee keg party.
Upon my arrival at the party, thinking I had gone for the shock effect, I was perplexed to find that no one seemed to notice. Here I was, the only one in costume and a ridiculous one at that, and I might as well have been there in overalls and a t-shirt. Most of the party-goers were people I didn't know and they acted as though I were as normal as any of them. There were only a few people in attendance that I recognized and none of them gave me a surprised look. For them I was apparently just another casualty of the eighties.
This was not like the rowdy parties we used to have. The crowd was down home Tennessee suburbia on the brink of middle age with kids, nice houses, and two later model cars in the garage. I nursed a plastic cup of beer as I made my rounds of the house trying to find some of my old friends. There were only a few of the old faces there. The folks that I remembered were probably at home with the kids, at other parties, or maybe even at church. An era had passed and in my silly costume I felt totally out of place at a party where I was politely accepted.
We left before midnight so my wife and I could be at my parents house to ring in the new year. Our kids were there with the rest of my family. My parents and my brother and sisters and their families were all there happily celebrating. They were surprised to see us come back so early, but happy that we would be there to see in the New Year with them.
That was the last time I dressed up for a costume party. Over twenty New Years Eves have passed since that night. Many things have changed. Since moving to California I rarely see those Tennessee friends. Many of our kids have grown and married and have kids of their own. I've been fortunate to spend many a New Years Eve with my family in Tennessee, but we don't have the parties like we had ten or even five years ago.
Perhaps one day I'll go back to one of those Tennessee parties with some of my friends--if any of them still have parties. Maybe I could even go in costume. I could dress up like myself when I was younger. Of course, I don't have hair like I used to back then. I guess I should buy a wig, but I think I'll skip the make-up and the over-sized suit.