As I grow older, the quality house party (let alone the “rager”) has become a less frequent event, replaced by going to dark bars or intermittent bouts of sobriety and self-reflection. That’s why when I do party, I try to maximize my fun. Like a seagull gliding from hot patch of concrete to hot patch of concrete, I try to stay in the spots of the party where I know the company will be vibrant and the conversation will move with the briskness and wit of Oscar Wilde writing Can’t Hardly Wait. I don’t want waste my time in low-frequency, no fun rooms. I want to be at the center of the party, that is, the party I want to be in. To do that one must have a key understanding of the internal architecture of a party. What is the purpose of each space? Is the room I am going to remain fun or is it busted? Below is a personal guide to the rooms you will encounter at a house party—hopefully it will help you on your journey to peak bacchanalia.
The Shoe Room
The shoe room—which if you’re rich is the foyer or if you’re the rest of us is either the space directly inside or outside the the front door—is the first inkling of what kind of party this is going to be. Is there a more existential question for a party than Should we take our shoes off? It’s asking what are we doing here with this party. Are we building an egalitarian community, committed to the struggle of a safe environment where we all we trust one another and work together to make sure our socks don’t get wet? Or will we remain an army of transient individuals, marching around the party in our boots and sneakers, allegiances to nobody and nothing but our own freedoms and pleasures?
Of course, like any socialist projects, there will be inefficiencies. I have never seen a shoe room that wasn’t chaos, the only organizational principle best described as sedimentary, where finding your shoe means rummaging through a pile of shoes stacked chronologically like you’re combing through the fossil record of arrivals to the party. Be wary as well. I have heard, though perhaps this is a millennial urban legend, that if you leave a party wearing another person’s Blundstones you will wake up with their student loans.
All the people you will meet in the shoe room: someone hopping around on one foot trying to tug a stubborn boot off; a couple frantically trying to find their shoes so they can leave and have a huge fight; a pizza delivery guy who has been completely forgotten about.
If it’s a good party, you will get to use the bathroom only once before it becomes consistently occupied—a faint rectangle of light spilling over the edges of the closed door the only evidence of the amenities within. So get what you need out of there. Splash some water on your face and whisper, “Keep it together,” like you’re in The Departed. Use a little bit of their floss. Check the cabinet for good drugs.
For the remaining time at the party, you’ll need to make alternative plans. Avoid at all costs a conversation with a stranger outside the bathroom. The unspoken reason for both of you standing will hang over any feints at interaction. “Hi my name is Jordan and yes I am also waiting to expel waste. Pleasure to meet you.”
But be careful with your alternative plans. I went to a party a little while ago and was taking a piss outside when I heard the click of a door opening. The guy in the basement was letting his dog, Nixon, out, and Nixon promptly ran up the steps that it turned out I was pissing directly in front of. The man, furious, demanded that I wash his dog’s feet.
His exact words were, “Oh great! Well now you gotta wash my dog’s feet.”
To which, I responded, “Sure I’ll wash your dog’s feet. Should I pick him up?”
The man, who obviously was a fan of conflicts of both the audible and physical kinds, was discombobulated by my meek agreeableness and haltingly responded, “Yeah, yeah pick him up. Uh, ok follow me.”
I followed him down into his apartment and handed him the dog while I began running not-too-hot water over Nixon’s adorable paws. After the two of us finished the project with the tenderness of live-in nurse, the man apologetically sighed before asking, “Do you want to smoke a bowl?” Yes! Another friendship created through the cohesive power of public urination.
All the people you will meet in/near the bathroom: a person who has to pee sooooo bad; your incredibly inebriated looking reflection; someone holding onto the toilet like a recently reunited lover.
The Outside Space
Ah the outside, a strategically essential component of a party. It is the alternative bathroom and the smoking room. The allure of the outside room also acts kind of like a powerful ocean current for the party, giving people an excuse to leave the room they are in, mixing and matching groups and conversation and keeping the party in a necessary state of flux.
Also there is the rejuvenating power of partying outdoors. Your party is no longer constrained by walls and appliances; no it is now connected to nature’s deeper rhythms of madness and fertility. The crisp air, the elements, the cascading moonlight are like Dionysus himself rubbing our shoulders and brains, whispering in the ear, “Come on, you call this partying? Step it up. Climb onto the roof, get naked and start dancing. Rip that satellite dish off its base and chug Four Loco from it.”
All the people you meet in the Outside Space: people who only smoke when they drink and hence don't have any smokes but also have no qualms about bumming about 20 over the evening; potheads too stoned to socialize and can only grin while sitting in a stoic, greasy silence; one of the hosts who is panicked and asking if anybody has seen the cat.
The Dance Room
Pause and take a moment in honour of all those brave patriots and explorers and their first tentative steps onto a not-yet-formed dance floor. They are the ones who push the living room’s couches up against the wall or realize that if they picked up and moved this table, the dining room is just one slippery floor perfect for all sorts of extravagant slides and spin. Those first couple of moments though… a more cold and hostile social environment I cannot think of. One could die of exposure to the cool indifference of the non-dancers and their practiced avoidance of our vulnerable, tentative movements.
There’s the agony of abandonment as one of your fellow dancers—whose bashful smiles that acknowledged the silliness of this whole thing was the glue keeping the damn project together—succumbs to the pull and safety of ignominy and leaves the dance floor, sending the whole endeavor teetering on the edge of destruction.
Why do we need do it? Why do we flirt with oblivion and shame? Because a dance party is the best party. Because sometimes you’re able to drop the insecurity and painful self-awareness and stop caring that you dance with the grace of a fork falling on the floor or the coordination of more than four people meeting up for brunch and the rhythm of a pair of shoes in the dryer.
And if you are in charge of the music, you gotta build up to playing “Pony”. Don’t just play it right away like a maniac.
All the people you will meet in the dance room: a guy who dances like Bruno Mars but if Bruno Mars was a bad dancer; a guy pretending to rap along to popular rap songs but is actually mumbling nonsense because he doesn’t know any of the words; a woman demanding some Beyonce with, frankly, a terrifying intensity.
The Drug Room
This is the non-bathroom room where people go to do cocaine, and finish evolving into their most annoying form. It’ll probably be a bedroom or occasionally a less-used living room. Whichever option, the room will be as messy as the first social interaction between a fucked up person with a non-fucked up person. In my experience this is usually a very exclusive room—the VIP room of the party, by that I mean, I never get asked to do cocaine. I mean I get it, cocaine is very expensive and can’t be shared with everyone, especially someone like me who is about as cool and dangerous looking as a guy who just got fired from a bookstore for his controversial book-of-the-month pick. It’s just an unfair deal though, like oh you aren’t going to share your cocaine but you are about to share every opinion you’ve ever had. Just doesn’t seem like a fair deal is all.
Though it’s probably better I don’t get invited into these rooms. The few times I have done cocaine it was a humiliating experience for all involved. Instead a of simple, confident snort,I have to snort around the table trying to collect it all like some kind of terminally uncool anteater. It’s so bad I’m pretty sure the cocaine is embarrassed for me.
All the people you will meet in the drug room: cokeheads who are tellingly a little too excited about what’s about to go down; a man with some strong opinions about the artistic direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; a roommate that you never saw before and will end up staying in the drug room for the entirety of the party.
The Good Room aka, the Kitchen
The best room at a party will alway be the kitchen. This is one of the few definitive truths in this phantasm of a life. It’s where the booze is so there will always be a constant train of partygoers that you can meet. And the meeting is easier because standing and leaning are much more conducive to socializing than sitting. When I’m leaning on a counter or a stovetop I feel cool and relaxed, ready to make a new friend but when I’m sitting down I feel like, “Oh no am I actually on the toilet? Oh good just on a couch. That was a close one.” Never mind when you are sitting and someone is talking to you while their standing which makes me feel like I am about to be disciplined by a drunk overlord.
That’s why the kitchen rules. We’re all standing or leaning, we’re on the same level, we’re looking at each other’s eyes. Plus there is room to fan out, to twirl and spin and shake it and, if you’re my former roommate Josh, play real-life Fruit Ninja where we would go through all the rapidly decaying fruit in our fridge and toss and chop it with a crazy-sharp knife. Only in the kitchen, surrounded by the soothing shapes of bowls, would this kind of madness be not only accepted but cherished.
Want to make your party truly pop? Make all the rooms in your house a kitchen. Put a blender in the bathroom, take all the chairs out of the living room and replace them with spatulas. You’re guests will thank me.
All the people that you will meet in the kitchen: Ladies; fellas; people who don’t give a fuck; lovers; haters; people who call themselves players; hot mommas; pimp daddies; people rolling up in Caddies; rockers; hip hoppers; and everybody all around the world.
The Bad Room
The Bad Room can be any room in the house. A dining room that did not get turned into a dance floor, a living room where people started playing Nintendo Switch for too long, a basement that is a little too cold and creepy. All it takes is a feeling that is not the spot to be in. To be clear, just because you are in the Bad Room doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It can happen to anyone. You can just be sitting in a room, getting deep into the weeds on a solid conversation and miss the subtle temperature change in the room. Maybe it was because somebody busted out a hula hoop a little too early in the night or everybody got uncomfortable after that game of Twister got seriously competitive, but the world-destroying question starts to pop into everyone’s head, I wonder what’s going on in the rest of the party? Once that happens a trickle of people leaving the room turns into a torrent, leaving behind only the withered husk of what used to be a fun setting.
The important thing to do is to remain calm and know when to cut your losses. The last time this happened to me, what was once a fun, vibing room immediately flipped into a desolate, frigid loser-dome, filled with me, two other weirdoes whose company I was enjoying, along with an incessant hula hooper. Filled with hubris, I was sure that if we stayed put, the inevitable flow of the party would return to us and we would be on the ground floor—kings and queens of a fertile New World.
That never happened. What happened instead was a powerful signifier that we were in the Bad Room. Somebody came into the room, looked around the room and then immediately turned around and left. It was a one-second, wordless and damning indictment that we were in the Wastelands of the party, where those who are extraneous to the party—the sullied, the unseen—are left to languish while the party rages elsewhere.
I had to apologize to those who had stayed with me and my madness. I was a false prophet who had led us to ruin. The only thing left to do was carve CROATOAN into the wall and chug my beer so I had a reason to leave the godforsaken place.
All the people you will meet in the bad room: Me.
There it is a quick handy guide to the house parties. Remember to stay humble, have fun, follow your instincts and I’ll meet you under the warm stove light of the kitchen.