Blank Canvas Theory
It ain't Mayberry. Some of my most bizarre experiences in this city
have been at parties. They come in every conceivable variety out
here. I've been to the vegetarian pot-luck Thanksgiving, where there
was stunned silence after I said, "Guess which dish was made
with beef broth?"; the dinner party where the hostess' vagina
was on display in her photo collages hanging everywhere (now that's
what I call self promotion!); and the launch party for a line of
Goth dolls where a Dead or Alive/Bauhaus cover band played songs
no one wanted to hear the first time. But when you first walk through
that door, every party is pure potential, a blank canvas where anything
can happen, good or bad. I honed my Blank Canvas Theory after many
parties, where I experienced polar ends of the shame/pride spectrum.
fade in on my sunshiny, improbable, Golden Boy Sunday afternoon.
I was a guest of a guest, a "who the hell are you?" I
was straining to make conversation about things like escrow and
Montessori School with a group that consisted of married couples
who'd brought their out of control kids. It was one of those situations
where you have nothing to contribute so you just enthusiastically
say "yeah" whenever there's a pause. I was standing by
a sloping walkway leading to a flight of jagged stone steps when
I suddenly noticed a young boy frantically chasing his ball as it
rolled down the path. He was just about to start flying down these
Alcatraz-style steps when I put my arm out and caught him. I passed
him to his mother, who said, "Thank you for saving my son"
and did a victory lap down the stairs, retrieving the ball for the
kid without setting down my margarita the entire time. The female
guests heralded me and the male guests, who of course were totally
emasculated by my Herculean display of life-saving awesomeness,
barely acknowledged me. I felt euphoric, high on life. Until an
hour later when I found myself breaking a chair and falling down.
The following spring, I went back there for an Oscar party. I thought
I would have some cachet as the lifesaver in the group but learned
otherwise when the host said, "Hi, nice to meet you."
I almost said, "We've met. I'm Steve. I save lives at your
'parties,' " using air-quotes to underscore the lameness. But
I kept that thought private and special.
was nothing compared to the barbeque in the valley where, again,
I was a guest of a guest. (Come to think of it, no one seems to
invite me anywhere directly. Maybe I'm disliked.) En route, my friend
James mentioned that the host's sister is gay. So at one point,
looking at family photos on the living room wall, I met two women
I assumed were girlfriends, Moira and Lonnie. Lonnie evoked early-'80s
Joan Jett. She was pretty with soft skin, black hair, and a black
leather jacket. Lonnie started explaining to me who was who in all
the family photographs on the wall. "So you're the hostess'
sister?" I asked. Looking nonplussed, Lonnie replied, "I'm
her boyfriend." And no, the word "boyfriend" was
not some cutting-edge ironic comment on gender roles. She was a
he. I stood there, dumbfounded, trying to formulate a response while
someone came up to him to say hi. My mind was exploding. Those breasts
underneath the zipped-up leather jacket are air pockets! That flawless
skin must just be from eight glasses of water a day! After Lonnie's
friend walked away, I still hadn't thought of a graceful exit. Instead,
I suavely put my hand over my face, muttered, "I'm really sorry"
and went to find James. "We have to leave right now,"
I said. "And I can never see any of these people again."
I'm not on the scene offending androgynes, I'm getting uninvited
from funerals. This happened in March, and was a first for me. Call
it a case of the blank canvas being left blank. My neighbor's friend,
a hair and makeup artist to the stars, passed away and my neighbor
asked me to go with her to the funeral. Two days before the memorial,
she called me to say she would be going alone. I thought my reputation
for putting my foot in my mouth had spread to the great beyond.
But it was the deceased's agents, the day's organizers, who had
issued "a friends and family only" mandate. My neighbor
was very apologetic, making me wonder if she had feared I would
act belligerent and shout, "But you promised!"
holidays are fast approaching and the e-vites are pouring in. I'm
looking forward to most of them, and the ones I'm on the fence about,
I've said "yes" to, too. Something amazing or amazingly
weird could happen. I'm lured by the sheer curiosity.
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