It felt like Fifth Avenue in the height of tourist season. Throngs of people milling about so closely packed together that my red heels consistently nicked the legs of the people around me. I did my best to walk in the space like a fairly regular human being with some semblance of fine motor skills, but occasionally failed.
I was given two free tickets to a holiday party uptown, billed as one for "young professionals." I didn't really know what this meant, save for the fact the party would probably filled with people who were approximately my age and that there would be an open bar. I have seen several parties advertised this way around New York, but have never actually gone to one before.
I brought as my partner in crime my fearless partygoer RaGo, and together we milled about the space, she dressed like a punk nun in a black velvet dress with studs at the neck and wrist, and I like a 1930s bohemian entertaining at home, sheer red draping top and matching heels with wide-legged grey trousers in the middle. If you know either of us, this is par for the course--we are, not to toot our own horns, creatively minded individuals, people who love not only to develop original work (RaGo once wrote a tale from her youth entitled "My Genderqueer Rabbit" which I sincerely hope she publishes one day) but appreciate it. I like to think this is regularly reflected in our attire.
And everyone else there was wearing black. Black cocktail dresses with black leggings or tights and riding boots. And the women snarl at the servers, asking them for specific appetizers from the giant tray of all the same appetizer, as if somehow some are actually better than others and they simply must have the best ones. The men stand in the background, button-up shirts and contrasting ties, putting up with the women, not being at all too particular themselves about the appetizers.
Shortly, RaGo and I understand where we are--we are at the holiday party equivalent of a singles' weekend and, save for the open bar, we almost instantly lose interest. That is, until the very rad DJ served up the newish, posthumously released Michael Jackson-Justin Timberlake collaboration, "Love Never Felt So Good."
"I love this song!" RaGo says, as we perch on the wooden stage, sipping our vodka sodas.
"Do you want to dance with me?" I say.
She hesitates, but eventually answers in the affirmative.
"Yeah. Whatever, let's Romy and Michele this place."
It's the perfect reference for what we are about to do, this reference to the utterly classic 1997 film "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," in which two utterly clueless former high school outcasts and best friends return home for, well, their high school reunion. Multiple times in the film--at their prom, at a club, at the reunion-- they don't have anyone to dance with, so they dance with each other, the only other person either of them has ever really needed.
So RaGo and I get up and dance. Encouraged by our movement at this otherwise dead party, the DJ spins dance track after dance track and soon we have easily been dancing non-stop for 30 minutes. And after said time, we are still the only people dancing. He loves us, smiling and winking and clapping at us and offering us cocktail napkins when we get very sweaty. We inspire a few people to move around, but they stop after one or two songs and it continues to be really only us twirling around the space throughout the entire evening. I feel people staring at us and I couldn't care less. Yes, watch away! Look at what your life is missing! Not me, per se, but the dancing! Why aren't you dancing?!
I decide I am a filter now. That anyone I would possibly want to talk to at this party would be a person who actually had the guts to start dancing with me. So far, and wonderfully so, the only person is RaGo. After each song begins, we say, "Just one more then we'll go have another drink," but the songs are so good we just keep dancing.
Eventually, vodka sodas call to us and we sit down and take a break. A girl comes over to us who has lost her friends. "Wow!" she says. "You guys look like you're having so much fun dancing! I wish I could do that!" She is, unsurprisingly, also wearing all black.
And I just think to myself, uh, why couldn't you, able-bodied individual? And then I remember the uptightness and homogeneity of the crowd and I understand. These people aren't like us. They have no bone of Romy and Michele in their bodies. They don't understand what we're doing.
We chat with her briefly--RaGo is pleasant but I become disinterested almost immediately. One of my worst qualities is that I have zero tolerance for lack of imagination. But, mercifully, we are granted a reprieve from this person's thoughtless drivel ("So have you met any guys here?" she asks us before asking us what we do, or even our names. Seriously?) when the DJ starts playing Britney Spears's "Work Bitch." To call RaGo a Britney fan would be a disarming understatement and she immediately throws up her hands and squeals with the delight. The DJ sees and laughs uproariously but appreciatively. In an instant we are up and dancing and this other girl disappears. We vogue and pose and shimmy to Britney; RaGo's arms are up in the air, trance-like and twirling, as if summoning all the goddesses of the universe toward her. She is the best thing at this party, and the only reason I'm happy I'm here, open bar or not.
Shortly, we are sweaty again and we sit down to take advantage of the bar once more. A man tries to talk to me by asking me about my family heritage--nosy, impertinent questions like, What tribe does your family belong to? What's your family name? Where is your mother from?--as if he's looking to buy a show dog from a breeder, holding me up to the light to see if my whiskers are growing in the right direction before making his purchase.
It takes everything in me not to wrinkle my brow at him, roll my eyes, and say "Who the hell are you, guy??" Surprisingly, I hold it together and soon the party is over. Not without a glass of chocolate liqueur over ice, which RaGo and I share.
In line for our coats, I meet a funny, intelligent man who feels similar befuddlement at my nosy gentleman story. "What, like he expected you to know the exact shtetl where they lived?" he laughs. At least someone understands. He's kind, holding my bag while I reach for my coat, helping me put it on. At least not everyone here is looking for a show dog. We trade phone numbers.
RaGo and I laugh our way out of the party, recounting our adventures and misadventures--the DJ, dancing, watching the women pick out appetizers, that really good chocolate liquer. We stop into an Italian restaurant and stuff our faces with pasta and bread and olive oil, hungry after not having been able to push past those women at the appetizer bar all evening. At a party where I could have easily been overwhelmed by not only the sheer number of people but the sad lack of originality in all of them, my dear friend RaGo was pure perfection.
"I'm so glad you were there," I say again as we cram the last bites of linguine into our mouths. "I don't know what I would have done without you!" I cannot say it enough.