There's a certain protocol one has to follow when accepting invitations to events held by friend's boyfriends. Picture a bullseye in your head, in the dead center is the circle of friends that you have known the oldest, those almost always get an automatic yes. Outside of that, is the group that you're close with, but if you skipped a graduation party or boozy Halloween bash, no one would really care. Closing out the bullseye, is the “people you've not seen since high school and used to make fun of you for liking Doctor Who but now that's all they talk about on Facebook isn't that somewhat ironic ha ha” group. These are the invites you outright ignore.
So what happens when, through some mysterious twist of fate, one of your best friends starts to date a man who is firmly in the last ring of this bullseye? Then, once they've been firmly established as a couple through a series of endless photographs on the Facebooks, you're invited to attend a party his parents are throwing in his honor. A celebration of him graduation from grad school. What does one do? Does one go? Does one make some cheap excuse? This was the debate I found myself in not too long ago, and the deliberation process was long and involved many a flow chart.
I had to say yes, and I would have to act like I was very pleased to be there. At no point during any of the festivities could there be a look on my face or tone in my voice that indicated “I'm only here because you're doing exciting things after dark with one of my best friends.” The party was going to be held at the country club his family had been members of for years, if anything I figured the food would be good, and it was an excuse to wear a bow tie. So I found myself wearing a nice bright Spring suit and bow tie, and off I went to the club.
I walked out to the outdoor poolside area, where everyone was, scatted about the place with members of the wait staff shuffling in between them. Jonathan, the graduate we were celebrating, spotted me. Walking towards me, Jonathan extended his hand, and I shook it. “Hey Andy! Good to see ya!” he said as he shook my hand, following by slapping me on the side of my arm, and asking me if I was excited about the new doctor on Doctor Who. I smiled, and laughed, and said a few words then departed to look for my friend.
As I wandered around the poolside area of the Country Club, I saw the big buffet table where various silver serving dishes of food had been neatly lined up. On a round table at the end of the buffet, was a series of cupcakes decorated in pastel colors. The cupcakes in the center had red letters on them, which spelled out “Congratulations, Jonathan!” On the way to find my friend, Sally, I stopped by the drink station and got myself a drink.
As I scanned the area for Sally, I felt a hand on my right shoulder. “Andy! You made it!” I turned, and it was Sally, who greeted me with a hug. After some short catch up chatter, Sally led me towards a group of people so I could mingle. I didn't know anyone there outside of Sally and Jonathan, so Sally made all the introductions, telling people my name, followed by “he writes.” Thus began the awkward conversations of people who are just meeting for the first time, and are clearly outside of each others respective wheelhouses.
After a short set of introductions Sally moved around to mingle with newly arrived guests, and I politely broke away from the people I had been talking to, and walked over to examine the buffet table. It was an impressive array of cocktail foods, with almost everything being able to be handled by one hand, or consumed with the use of a toothpick instead of a fork. After I had been there for what seemed to be an hour, I can only assume that all the invites had arrived, and Jonathan's parents huddled everyone centered around the pool.
A speech was forthcoming, the kind that parents give to celebrate the great achievement. Family members tear up, friends smile, and random people like me just wonder when they can get more of those fancy cocktail weenies. As we stood around the pool, drinks in hand, listening to Jonathan's mother go on and on about how her great her son is and how he has such a magnificent career ahead of him, a breeze hit the air.
With it being a fresh spring day, and with the air being ripe with pollen, the breeze sent a hefty load of it wavering through the air. I happen to be a long standing allergy sufferer, so I began to sneeze. Not quiet, undetectable sneezes, oh no. These were big, full, heavy, full body heaves of sneezes. With the first sneeze, my right arm jerked and my hand tossed the contents of my drink up into the air, which then landed promptly on my head.
Next came a series of three sneezes, so fast and furious were they that I was unable to keep my eyes open, or have any idea as to what direction I was moving in. They caused my whole body to shake, and as a result I was inching ever so closer until, that's right, I fell in the pool. Laughter began, as is people's desire at the sight of a rotund man falling into a pool. As the laugher began to subside, Jonathan felt it was time to say a witticism, a line so witty it is bound to go down in the annuls of history, as he yelled “Bet 'cha wish you had a TARDIS, bro!”
I floated in the pool, and as I pondered what would be the most dignified way to exit, I realized that any dignity I had when I had entered the Country Club was long gone. I composed myself, stoically walked out of the pool, and kept on walking. As I drove home, wind sweeping around me, a cold bound to be coming, and my car needing drying, all I could think about was how much could have been saved if I had only said no to the invite. Sally did call me, three days later, when her and Jonathan broke up, which I seemed to have been the catalyst for the conversation that began it. She's happier now, and I've avoided any and all aquatic activities for weeks.