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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Costume Party

         When I was in my twenties and into my thirties, I hung around with a crowd that liked to party.  I say hung around, but not so much after I hit twenty-five and was usually not home most of the time because I was traveling with road shows.   I would be traveling most of the year, but whenever I did stop back home there were always parties to go to.

          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.

..

29 comments:

  1. It's odd how one gradually slips away from what was once routine - necessarily so if life takes one in other directions.

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  2. This is a very cute story. I can imagine what you were thinking at that party.

    I've changed quite a bit over the years. In my twenties, I partied, too, but in my thirties, well, lets say I don't get out much now.

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  3. Many tragic looks of the 1980s!

    I was never a big partier when most people go through that phase. Instead, I was a big studier. I'm actually a little more relaxed now, though I still wouldn't say I'm a partier.

    And I'm known to dress from time-to-time on Halloween.

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  4. How bizarre that no-one commented on your costume and just carried on as normal! I would find that very perplexing.

    Interesting story, Lee!

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  5. I'm agreeing with Talli. Strange...

    I've changed quite a bit over the years, but probably in the opposite direction as most people. My hubby and I got married in our early twenties and had our first child within a year and a half. Had more children. So now, in our late thirties and early forties, we're taking time for ourselves--going out to dinner with friends, etc....

    Have a great weekend!

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  6. Maybe the fact that no one seemed to notice was part of the deception? Everyone was in on it?

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  7. Janice -- Being away as much as I was I guess the changes were more noticeable. As friends began to have their own families and greater job responsibilities they began to drift away from the more carefree lifestyle.

    Miranda -- I think many of us who were partyers in younger times mellow out as we get older.

    Theresa -- I had an intellectual bent, but I should have studied more and taken my college life more seriously. But then again my life would have been a whole lot different and I might have missed out on a lot of great experiences.

    Talli -- I think it had something to do with the types of people who were becoming part of the expanding social circle. Some of the were from places other than Tennessee and then too it was probably a way that people were looking at things in the 80s.

    S.A.-- I tended to party a good deal when my kids were small. We had access to free babysitters which made things easier. As my kids got older my lifestyle became more conservative.

    Delores -- I thought about the conspiracy idea, but it's highly unlikely. There were always a disparate mix of people at these parties and many of them didn't associate with one another outside of these parties. Also, if there had been a plot I'm sure a few of the older friends would have let on. I think that the people who did know me were not surprised that I might engage in some craziness and in the post-1960s I think being different was more accepted and not made a big deal of.

    Lee

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  8. Life is full of twist and turns and changes are not always evident until one sits down and recalls what used to be.

    Have a wonderful week-end
    Yvonne.

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  9. Hi Lee .. really strange - but fun memories to read about .. I think if I lived in your neighbourhood I'd have left Tennessee - been really worried about this strange bod I'd seen .. !!

    I have never liked dressing up .. that embarrassment gene slips completely out of my skin - actually I'd probably be ok now! Then - never.

    Good for you - and I can understand your feelings .. and perhaps that's why you moved to California? Cheers have a good weekend .. Hilary

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  10. That is really odd! My wife talked me into dressing up for a Halloween party many years ago. That was my last foray into costume parties.

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  11. How bizarre that no one commented. Maybe it was your friends who were weird.

    I love dressing up at Halloween.

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  12. he he casualty of the 80s :)))
    Wish we had a photo of you in the costume!

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  13. Yvonne-- You are so right. The passage of time puts things in a more accurate perspective than what we see when it's all happening.

    Hilary -- I moved to California for a job opportunity and ironically it was managing a costume company branch.

    Alex -- I don't have to worry about that. My wife dislikes dressing up in costumes more than I do.

    Carol -- I guess we were all kind of weird and the 1980s were kind of a weird time anyway when I look back on it.

    Dezmond --I started to look through my photo albums to see if I did have one then figured I would be too much time and trouble.

    Lee

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  14. Cute story. I can't believe everyone acted normally at that party :)

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  15. They probably just figured you were a cross dressing floozy in a second hand suit. Nice of them not to mention it.

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  16. I liked that story... I see advertisements on your page does that mean something?

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  17. This was a nice blast from the past! Regardless if they appreciated your costume, I like how you still found time to celebrate with your family! Julie

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  18. Once for a Halloween costume party, my husband and I dressed as lobsters, with huge cardboard claws. This too was in the 80's. But before we left for the actual event, we visited neighbors, whose kids looked at us like we were crazy...how did you get so lucky to go unnoticed?

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  19. Looking forward to your picks for the blogfest on Monday!

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  20. Perfect story to start the weekend with. Facebook has become my party place with my HS and college pals. Diet Dr. Pepper has replaced the keg run.

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  21. The last time I dressed in a costume was in high school. Yikes that was at least 10 years ago-(wink).

    The saying that friends (mostly) come and go, but family is forever is somewhat true. I still know friends from long ago, but they're not that important to me any longer.

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  22. 'For them I was apparently just another casualty of the eighties.'

    This made me laugh out loud.

    Lee, I love your stories. I find in them a point of identification because they are just about everyday life but written in such a way that the engagement is immediate, like sitting at a stool in a bar like the one in 'Cheers' and swapping some damn good storytelling.

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  23. I loved this story. There is one of these in all of our past party going days. It's been awhile since I dressed up for Halloween, but I miss it. Now I live to watch my kids get dressed up and go trick-or-treating. :) Thanks for sharing this story.

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  24. Raelyn -- Yeah, I thought I was going to turn some heads but I didn't.

    LD - I guess maybe I was too good at the role.

    Emilee -- The ads mean something but I'm not totally sure what yet.

    Julie -- I started having a better time with my family from that point on.

    Liza -- Probably Rock Lobsters are more noticeable than cross-dressing floozies.

    Alex -- A few finishing touches and my post will be ready.

    Leslie -- That's about the extent of most of my partying these days as well.

    Teresa - I agree with you. Friends are fine but not as important as my family. However, I do hope I'll always have some friends around because they mean a lot to me.

    Suze -- Thank you so much. This is what I try to do. You sent a thrill through me with your flattering words.

    Ciara -- Thank you for reading. I still like to have fun, but now it's time for the kids to get a bit crazy now and then, which is not to say that I don't reserve a right to do the same now and then.

    Lee

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  25. I LOVE to dress up for any occasion. Even if no one else is dressing up. No one would dare try to trick me in that manner because they would know I derive pleasure from eccentric dress.

    I do understand, however, how it might me mortifying for a normal man to be in that situation. Sorry you were embarrassed! But you must admit it IS funny!

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  26. I'm thinking of just getting a Davey Crockett hat and wearing it all the time. If it's good enough for Donald Trump, then it's good enough for me.

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  27. That was like a foretaste of today's society... where everything is accepted as normal -- no matter how outrageous. I wonder if everyone was told in advance that you would be in costume and to just pretend as if they didn't notice?? Interesting.

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  28. Reminds me of the time I went to an 80s party. One guy was dressed like a nerd with thick glasses and highwater pants. later I found out he wasn't wearing a costume. He always looked like that. Ooops.

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  29. Crystal -- Actually I was not embarassed about anything. I was just kind of surprised that no one said anything and that very few of my old friends were there.

    Elliot -- A Davy Crockett hat might be especially nice in the winter.

    Doralynn -- I don't anyone really knew I was coming to the party. I kind of decided at the last minute. I think people had come to just accept that sort of thing in those years.

    Maurice -- Oops! is right. That's hilarious.

    Lee

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Lee