Back in my party days, when I was young and single, I didn't struggle with small talk...party banter. Partying was easy. Of course, I was twenty and usually dressed in something like a black leather mini-skirt. Then who needed banter? I was usually too busy trying not to fall while dancing on tables.
I now realize (unfortunately, too late) the bantering skill is a good thing to acquire. I discovered this while standing in the furnished parking lot - complete with couches and two open bars - of "The Pass" recording studio's opening night party, last Friday night.
As we sipped our strong margaritas, my husband and I spent the first half hour playing a game he made up called, "Guess the second engineer." We do these sort of things when 1) we know no one else and 2) we tire of talking about bills, kids, and our other married-people topics.
"See that one," he said, subtly pointing to a slouching guy in his mid-twenties dressed in baggy pants and a too-small jacket that inched up his back, "he's definitely a second (as in second recording engineer.)
"Hmmmm...," I responded, "I can imagine him sitting on our couch at midnight." A reference to one second engineer (during my husband's studio days) we invited for Thanksgiving dinner, who failed to take my yawning and slipping into pajamas as hints to leave.
Playing "guess the second engineer" and thinking of things to talk about is probably not what I'd be doing at a party if I were still twenty. But I now believe the ability to banter is a nice skill to have; now, If I had only made my discovery sooner that evening, I could have avoided this exchange between two men and me:
Forty-something acquaintance: Ah...Top Ramen. If you buy it in bulk, it's like negative cents. Isn't it?
Twenty-something second engineer: Yep. Good stuff.
Me: Yeah, you can always count on Top Ramen to pull you through those lean times. And it tastes pretty damn good.
(The men nod)
Twenty-something s.e.: Yeah, unless you use the whole seasoning packet. Then it's waaaaaay too salty.
Me: Are you kidding? Not salty enough. (I licked the chunks of salt on the lip of my margarita cup for emphasis)
Me: Not only do I use the whole seasoning packet, I add lots of soy sauce.
(The small crowd gasped)
Then, caught up in the excitement, I started blathering the other thoughts in my head, when I should have stopped after hearing the gasp.
Me: But then... I wake up puffy the next day. So puffy I can barely open my eyes (not quite, but like I said, I was caught up in the moment).
twenty-something s.e.: (cowers in revulsion) Whaaaaahhh?
forty-something acquaintance: It's the sodium. You'd have to be a forty year old woman to understand. (He says knowingly, being married a few decades himself.)
Ouch! How unsexy is that? And I once called myself a party girl!
After that unfortunate exchange, I was happy to learn my husband had correctly picked out all the second recording engineers. If only we could have left with a prize. But no. We headed out empty handed, with only a loop of the Top Ramen tale playing over and over in my slightly-tipsy head. We left just as weird Al Yankovic was arriving. Rather than think of more banter, we headed for In-n-Out burgers, chocolate shakes and fries... fries I doused with salt...mmmmm...
to awake the next day with an ache in my swollen little head.
*And for all you other ramen lovers out there, this book may be one you want to add to your cookbook collection.