Life By Design: The Party’s Over

Has the party goer gone way of the party giver?  Of course you can’t have one without the other, but for those that entertain








believing people want to go to parties is a reasonable assumption.   

Recently Sally Quinn, the once “It Girl” married to famed editor Ben Bradlee wrote a column entitled “The Party” for their beloved Washington Post.  She wrote for the wannabe Washington crowd about well-appointed dining tables filled with Hill types and colluding business men.  Now we’re hearing this is a thing of the past.  Not so long ago Republicans and Democrats alike flocked to these soirees and were envied for their place amongst the Washington elite.


According to Ms. Quinn, people in Washington are no longer civil enough to put politics aside in favor of cocktail chitchat and power play camaraderie.  Where’s the fun gone?

It appears that under the guise of political correctness we now have a society that can’t be civil with a drink in hand and therefore, have become nastier behind the scenes.  This is made so easy by Twitter and Facebook.  

In the heyday of the Bradlee/Quinn parties, most of what went on behind closed doors stayed there, except for what was supposed to leak out.  With the climate of PC-ness has come the advent of judgmental intolerance, ouch.    In fact knowing too much about most of these politicians has shown us too many of their warts and less of the star quality that made them attractive dinner guests.  The lack of national civility via information has brought down the famed social gathering.

In fact, Sally Quinn herself fell into this trap when she ratted out her own family in her “Party” column which was then promptly cancelled.

Note to self:  indulgent writing will cost you.

In the good old days you had people like George Plimpton throwing parties for anyone who was slightly interesting.  George, the founder and editor of The Paris Review thought nothing of having a party every night.   His biographer Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. said of him in George, Being George that the idea was to ‘embrace life no matter the consequences’.  Aha!

George didn’t rely on Facebook chatter for his entertainment.

This dismissal of the importance of live parties has inevitably trickled down to the average suburban home.   Anyone else notice the lack of people that regularly open their doors just for the purpose of entertaining?  Does anyone get that it’s so much tougher to be snarky with your neighbors when you’re looking right at them?

So yes, I blame the social networks for fooling people into thinking they’re in touch.  Maybe the over-scheduling of kids and the one-upmanship of who is busier has gotten in the way.  I have to admit that I find coffee klatches a waste of time because I usually need to be doing something else, but at cocktail hour there is nothing better to do than to catch up with friends.  You can’t really multi-task past conversation when it’s cocktail hour, and that’s the beauty of it.

With regards to the party goer going the way of the Quinn Party, I noticed the laisee faire attitude guests when I had parties on two of the worst weather days this year.  Forget the RSVP problem which has been beaten to death with no apparent rehabilitation on the part of the offenders, but the guests that find it too troubling to get to the party when it’s icky out is disconcerting.  Of course the uncomfortable hostess is mumbling apologies to her friends that ‘risked their lives’ to get there.  An awkward state of affairs that may have to do with the states after all.

I recently saw a political cartoon.  A Middle Eastern man asks another if he has voted, and the man responds that he was shot at and crawled through broken glass etc.  In the next frame an American looks out the window on Election Day and decides not to bother, because it’s raining.          

 We’re planning a 2nd birthday party for our twins, affectionately referred to as The Brothers.  Since they have no friends, we’ll  be inviting friends who have children that they can bring along as token child guests.  No doubt it will be a high turnout since the kids I know are still enamored with the thrill of a good party.  Try telling your kid you’re going to a party and then tell them you’re not.

May we all be so excited about being there.
Kim Berns , a writer and interior designer in Rye Neck, lived in Washington during the Clinton administration.




  1. So, so true. Our modern American life…it’s just so difficult, isn’t it? I love this line: “I blame the social networks for fooling people into thinking they’re in touch.” The real challenge I bet is getting people to turn off their Blackberries and i-phones once they do actually show up at your fete. And mingle, real face to real face. Does anyone remember that?

  2. I miss dinner for 6 or 8: such a wonderful way to have conversation and a lot of laughter around good food. My parents did a lot of this; my generation . . . not so much.

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