Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yes, I bear a grudge

I'm still sulking over the large-scale spurning of my housewarming party last Saturday. OK, a number of people had already gone out of the country - which is only to be expected, just a week before the Spring Festival. And a few people thought they were going to be free, but then decided they weren't, after all; this was very disappointing (given who they were: The Chairman, Dishy Debs, etc. - the core of my guest list), but at least they let me know. The Choirboy turned up very, very, VERY late (and sans girlfriend) - but at least he showed up. About twenty or so other people who I had hoped - expected - would show up (most of whom had given pretty definite, not to say enthusiastically positive responses earlier in the week) were suddenly mysteriously "not free" until much later in the evening (a couple of them came along to the 'after party' at 12 Square Metres), or else simply disappeared off the face of the earth. So, we were left with only about 50% of the expected turnout - which is more than somewhat of a bummer!

My parties, you see, are not like most other people's. And most of my invitees ought to appreciate that (but seem not to!).

Most - or many - house parties seem to be held at really large apartments, shared by groups of people. They are therefore able to invite the world at large: friends, and friends of friends, and workmates, and casual acquaintances of each of the housemates. Thus, they usually guarantee a strong turnout by being fairly indiscriminate, promiscuous in inviting guests - and so most absences go unnoticed or unregretted. With me, I'm doing these things entirely solo. And I'm trying to restrict myself to manageable numbers, so - for the most part - I only invite people I know quite well and really want to come; every absentee is noticed and regretted (especially if they've RSVP-ed in the affirmative).

Also, most house parties don't usually splurge a huge amount on booze. I know from bitter experience that I can't trust most of my guests to be particularly generous in "bringing a bottle", so I endeavour to lay on enough booze for everyone. That entails quite a significant expense. And it means that it's really useful to have a fairly accurate idea of how many people are intending to come.

Similarly, most other parties don't do much, if anything, in the way of food - chips and dip, maybe sending out for pizza. I usually attempt to cook food myself. I am not by any means a great chef (and I don't have much of a kitchen), but I make a big effort to produce tasty and unusual (and, mostly, hot) snacks for everyone. Again, this means that having an accurate idea of numbers is pretty important. So is having people turn up reasonably punctually ('cos I'm slaving away in the kitchen to produce hot food which won't, you know, stay hot for that long...).

Finally, it seems that most other parties tend to run later in the evening. Perhaps this is to allow people to get dinner first, so they won't be bothered about what snacks may be available at the party. Or perhaps it's just that the hosts don't give a damn about provoking angry confrontations with their neighbours, and maybe having to close things down abruptly when the police make their second or third visit to complain. Me, I do care about my neighbours (and I'd rather avoid having visits from the police); so I generally aim to wrap things up no later than 10pm, and, ideally, by 8pm or 9pm. The late evening party thing doesn't really seem to work in Beijing, to my mind (since most Chinese go to bed so early, and are going to be bothered by the unaccustomed NOISE from the laowai apartment). I much prefer to go for late afternoon or early evening gatherings (which have the added advantage of leaving people free to go on to other events, music gigs and so on, later on).

Unfortunately, it seems that I am swimming against the tide of fashion here.

People get used to turning up at parties where the hosts don't remember having invited them; parties where no-one's doing any substantial cooking; parties where you're expected to bring most of your own booze; parties that might keep going towards midnight if the neighbours are out of town and the police aren't feeling too cranky. People here, it seems, often tend to treat parties as anonymous and casual affairs, open-invitation mass events that are not that much different from spending a night out at a bar. They get into the habit of thinking that they can show up any time they like - or not at all - and no-one will much care, or even notice.

Yeah, well, my parties aren't like that. If you don't come, I do notice, I do care..... and you put me to considerable f***ing inconvenience and expense. And I get greatly disheartened at the lack of affection, respect, and even basic courtesy that this seems to evidence on your part.

If you said you were going to come on Saturday, and didn't...... keep out of my way for a few weeks, because I am extremely f***ing GRUMPY about it.


gary said...

Ouch! Sorry to hear that. I know what you mean. People in Beijing have this mentality that a houseparty is just like a rock gig or a bar opening or something, you can change your mind about whether to go or not on a whim. That just doesn't happpen here in the U.S. - someone invites you to a party at their place and you GO. I don't know if it suggests that 'friendships' are more superficial in an expat community.

Froog said...

You have a point, Gary. I fear the people here are more 'superficial' in many ways.

Perhaps it's something that this kind of environment tends to do to all of us. The fact that we're just dipping our toes experimentally in a foreign culture, are only here on a contingent or short-term basis, probably does make our relationships more intense but less deep or lasting. I think I've touched on this before, perhaps in my 'Dating in Beijing' posts.

Then again, perhaps there's just so much going on out here that we're permanently distracted, our attention spans maxed out? There could also be an element of that.

I wouldn't like to think that we're absorbing 'Chinese' vices of lack of foresight, lack of consideration, treating personal connections in a shallower more materialistic sort of way - but I fear that could also be a part of the problem.

Froog said...

Not that it was a bad party, as such, but... well, to my mind, it never quite achieved critical mass. We needed just a few more guests to give it some buzz. (If the missing 20 had all turned up, it would have been heaved out, but... we could have coped.)