Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deck the Halls

I don’t know when the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party became the mandatory holiday tradition that now permeates December’s existence within the borders of Christianity’s conquered empire.

*pauses* I’ve been reading some of Christopher Hitchens’ (R.I.P.) work today; if the first sentence feels too highbrow for this page, please bear with me. I’m sure it’ll wear off as this goes along.

But back to the sweater party. The idea was certainly novel when I first learned of it a few years ago. I was at Shadyside Saloon on a random Saturday night when a large group of sloshed people walked in wearing their grandmothers’ finest holiday threads. I asked one of the girls in the group what was going on, and the tipsy lass explained the party and its premise. By the following year, everyone I knew was either going to an ugly sweater party, or was posting pictures on Facebook of the one they had just been to. Maybe I just discovered the phenomenon late; but it seemed to go from being a random, one-of-a-kind occurrence to a holiday cliché in less time than it takes Kim Kardashian to dive in front of a flashing camera.

But, despite this sudden growth in popularity, I had yet to attend an ugly sweater party. It remained just below “Foam Party” and just above “Garden Party” on this drinker’s specialty-party bucket list. That all changed two weeks ago; thanks to Dupa and Smashley, I can now cross it off the list. [Next up: “Key Party”…]

The challenge that immediately faces you once you’ve been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party is, of course, finding an ugly Christmas sweater. My family loves me too much to have ever given me one, which meant I would have to buy one. But where do you go to find an ugly Christmas sweater? Personally, I always assumed they just came into being, like candy corn and old Chevy Cavaliers. No one buys these things; they just sort of…show up.

I was saved, as usual, by the internet. I happened to see the perfect holiday “sweater” [I use apostrophes because, as it was pointed out to me by several people, the item of clothing in question was more sweatshirt than sweater.] while reading a random newsletter. Across the chest was a festive winter display that included snowflakes, Christmas trees, and reindeer having sex. I hummed “Jingle Bells” as I placed my order.

Smashley’s townhouse was perfectly appointed for the party, with food, people, and booze everywhere you turned. I arrived roughly two hours after the party had begun, and found our hosts to be sailing blissfully down Shit Creek by that point. Smashley, in particular, was wobbly; her eyes were glossed over, and Dupa noted to me that she had exceeded her seven beer threshold. He was standing a little more firm than she was, but that’s like saying ice is slightly colder than snow on an August afternoon. As he stalked the party wearing a knitted Christmas vest and dangling Christmas elf earrings, everyone at the party knew that his time was limited.

With card games starting and the party buzzing along, Tony and I decided to make a run to the bar down the street for six packs. We grabbed Miller Lite pounders from the hot-but-really-young-looking bartender to fortify the party supply. Tony then added, “I’ve got to get something good for myself, I can’t drink that stuff,” and ordered a sixer of Sam Adams. This is the same guy who I once watched put Coke in a glass of good scotch. I feel like I don’t know him anymore.

The next couple of hours went by in somewhat predictable fashion: TJ took a picture of Dupa suggestively shoving a beer bottle into Smashley’s mouth, rounds of shots were passed out by TD, Smashley performed a standing lap dance on a too-embarrassed-to-dance-back Tony, TJ cut the green-sequined sleeves off of our friend Dave’s sweater, people took turns wearing said green-sequined sleeves, rounds of shots were passed out by Tony, Dupa pulled out his balls in front of unsuspecting party guests…you know, the standard fare. Then, just before 1 a.m., Smashley went upstairs and didn’t come back. After about ten minutes, Dupa went upstairs too, presumably to check on her. Another ten minutes passed without his return, and the twelve of us still hanging out suddenly felt abandoned. I walked upstairs and listened at the bedroom door; I heard utter silence. Nothing. It was still relatively early, but our hosts had both inexplicably turned in for the night, without so much as a “Goodnight” or “Fuck you, I’m out!”

When I rejoined my fellow orphaned partygoers, we began strategizing our next move. TD and TJ had recently rented a house only five minutes away, and they offered to continue the party over there. As everyone began gathering coats and other belongings, a thought was casually voiced by someone in the crowd: “I can’t believe they just passed out on us like that. We should do something to fuck with them.” This stopped several of us in our tracks, as we considered the possibilities. And that pause gave the opportunity for a suggestion to be made. “We should move around all of the furniture.”

Now, dear reader, it may seem that I’m purposely being vague about the authors of these two sentences. But I say with all honesty that I have no idea who was responsible for either. I was one of the more sober people at the party at that point, but I truly do not remember just who said what; what I do remember, however, was that each of us grinned from ear-to-ear once the idea was in our heads. And not a single person raised protest; Affliction, TJ, Tony, Dave, Dave’s wife Melissa, TD, her “friend” “Boy Toy”, Shannon, Entertainer, Prince of Ligonier, Mrs. Prince, and I just chuckled and got down to it.

Our original thought was to go all out—TV in the kitchen, dining room table on the back porch, etc. But logical heads prevailed, and we settled for only shifting around
the living room. The entertainment center was moved from the wall, it’s TV, cable box, and DVD player carefully disconnected from the outlets and cable line. In its place went the couch, which had occupied the opposite wall. The chaise lounge and accompanying ottoman were moved to the far corner, and the coffee table was placed in front of the couch. The room was essentially flipped. Giggling like schoolchildren, we gathered up the sixers that Tony and I had bought, and tiptoed off to our cars.

As we piled into TD and TJ’s living room and started cracking open beers, a common sentiment was repeatedly shared by each of us—ironically, the very people to blame for the sudden lack of trust. “I am NEVER leaving any of you assholes alone at my place.”

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