Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Christmas Party

The first Friday of my journey along funemployment towards inevitable and deplorable destitution, fully accessorized undoubtedly, I found myself traipsing in silver heels through light sprinkles of snow to attend a party of complete and total strangers.

Perhaps a bit of background: when I had, over a year ago, accepted a position at the firm that had just strongly encouraged me to hang tight, collect that government money from those productive tax-paying citizens, and hope they still found me valuable in a few months when finances and new accounts were secure, it had necessitated an uprooting to a vaguely reminiscing-metropolitan suburban sprawl small town where I knew absolutely no one. And that suburban small town was in none other than the reputable, the wild, and the beautiful Garden State. I am, and always have been, affable, gregarious, open to new experiences, and charmingly adept in a range of social situations, so I anticipated the professional and personal transplant would be an opportunity, as opposed to a hardship and move to definitive pariah status. Besides, my new apartment would be a mere ten minute strut from the closest train station to Manhattan, and my personal favorite borough, Brooklyn. Though this was a tad optimistic initially, I have yet to achieve the pariah social caste. And I have grown quite accustom to sticking out like a stylized sore thumb, though more on this to come.

Within recent months, my father's long time childhood buddy's daughter had moved to this sequestered suburban sprawl land and, naturally, our parents decided to friend set us up. After a number of failed attempts to meet up for coffee or a cocktail, she invited me to attend an intimate Christmas gathering. Within the emotional maelstrom of precarious employment, I thought for an instant that a stranger-filled party would be mediocre, possibly boring, maybe even uncomfortable; then, with the slightly desperate and crazed mindset of a girl on the rebound, again, I saw social and professional opportunity. Networking.

In every career search orientation and seminar I attended at university, the prevailing mantra was always that almost all new jobs are acquired through networking with contacts, and these contacts can be collected from all walks of life, so keep your eyes and ears open. Now, despite entering this soiree with a particular stratagem, I did not don my favorite tailored black power suit, my demurely stern librarian eyeglasses. This was a cocktail party, after all. So, as many young girls in a position of hope and tumult would, I decided to perform a twist, and wear a modern classic: the little white dress.

Wearing a little white dress to a Christmas party, an actual seasonal Christmas party, none of this Christmas in July retail lunacy, incorporates one of my favorite style dares: winter white. True, our mothers and grandmothers warned us against this, but they and their fashion testaments are ancient history as far as Karl Lagerfeld or Grace Coddington or Valentino are concerned (please note this magnificent irony; all three icons are, well, icons and geniuses, but also older than fossils). Many tend to shy from and want to deny winter white, fearing an epic hyperbolization of pale, dry skin, at least the many who live in the great northeast. And these fears are quite founded. However, to continue to enjoy white, we simply need to be more mindful of shade, fabric, draping, and pairing with accessories. A warmer cream or sleek ivory, a delicate light lace matched with a tailored jacket or fur, and a heavy wool coat or fitting slack are some of my favorite manifestations of the winter white look.

In retrospect, my choice was rather bold for a party of strangers, and one in which I had networking aspirations: I wore a favorite piece of mine, a stark, opalescent short white dress, of an almost light satin material, draped and gathered in such a complex way that I have always compared to a boxer's robe. I have rosy, olive-toned skin, which maintains some color in the colder gray months, and so the bright white did not leave me like a walking, poorly exposed photograph. I paired the dress with thick chrome gray opaque stockings, some silver gray heels, and an opulent lucite chandelier necklace and two strong lucite silver bangles, all from the late 1960's. Ironically, once again, the necklace had been purchased from a vintage street vendor on the Upper West, a few months before, celebrating my recent promotion. To combat the frigid winter air, I covered up with a belted camel coat, also vintage from the 1960s, purchased at a consignment shop near the beach in North Carolina, when sharp cold is a glimmering, translucent memory.

As I wandered through the labyrinth of hallways in the brand new building of luxury apartments, a building so new it clung comfortable to its paint and carpeting stench, seeking my hostess' humble abode, fear and anxiety began to set in. The invitation had been emailed, I would know not a soul, I honestly have no idea what these people are interested in; what if this is one of those famed ugly sweater holiday parties, and I arrive in a short white party dress, full jewelry, and shimmering eye make up? Furthermore, I was empty-handed, and began to feel foolish not even arriving with a bottle of wine, and not wanting to admit quite yet that funds for me would be tight in the coming months. When I knocked on the door, I was relieved to be greeted by her sweet sister-in-law, resplendent in layers of pearls and a traditional little black dress, and behind her a spread of snacks and drinks covering the entirety of the kitchen counter and table.

Ever the punctual one, I was the first guest to arrive, besides the hostess' brother and his new bride, and their family's rather forward black lab, whose wet nose was up the back of my dress skirt within seconds, and returned for further exploration throughout the evening. With the hostess' encouragement, I made myself a Cape Cod, and broke the ice with her older brother, who was utterly tickled to learn that a vodka and cranberry was actually called a Cape Cod. All were friendly, open, and lovely people, in non-atrocious holiday costume, and I was assured once more that the night would be fun and relaxing, not some ill-fated mistake.

As more guests piled in, mostly the college and high school friends of the hostess, I was immediately reminded that young people, such as myself, and indeed all of my friends, were not much interested in networking at a cocktail party. They, like my close friends and I, were interested in drinking and joking at a cocktail party. I believe the closest I reached to some type of swapping of contacts was playing the ever popular name-game with some baseball beau hunk who had attended Yale. One of the hostess' colleagues and I, sharing similar interests in aesthetics, discussed some of our favorite music venues and live shows, not our professional aspirations or our current status on the corporate hierarchic ladder. This was an evening of simple, unadulterated pleasantries and new acquaintances, which, as it turned out, was precisely what I needed. Like many girls on the rebound, I was not prepared for new professional potentials, for discovering and unearthing other prospects, and thankfully I instead relished in the spirit of the season and beamed in my clean white.

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