Today’s post has nothing to do with what I had planned, but after reading the comment following yesterday’s piece on cocktail dresses (see below), it brought back long, not forgotten, but stowed-away memories.
You say “For those who do not receive enough cocktail party invitations to merit one of these.. what are your thoughts about hosting a small/large cocktail party by yourself, without an escort? I mean, if one finds oneself at 55+ happily single, and way more often than
not, excluded from many seasonal social functions because of the perceived awkwardness of attending sans beau. I suppose they assume that solo, I am unable to talk, laugh, and make an otherwise valued contribution to the gathering. What say you, Wise One?
November 18, 2010 8:59 PM
Normally, I don’t like to get too personal in this space, mostly because my intention is to entertain you, not bore you with memories and experiences. But, it’s the exceptions that make the rule, or something like that.
The question and comments from Anonymous (and reiterated by Carole) struck a chord that played in my head through the night and throughout the morning. This is a story about my mother.
She was a young widow, in her early 50s, when my father died suddenly. I was 10-years-old.
(She was a femme d’un certain age when I was born.) She was tall, slim and beautiful, several times mistaken for Greta Garbo when she shopped or dined in Manhattan.
She never really recovered from losing the love of her life, but beyond that, she never understood the consequences of being a widow — a woman without a partner. A threat, competition, a predator, all the characteristics she was incapable of being seemed to have mysteriously become part of her persona.
First the real estate agents started calling to see when she would be ready to sell our house. Then abruptly all the invitations to dinners and cocktail parties stopped. With the exception of two close friends, one a widow, the other with a husband who traveled most of the time, she was completely cut out of all social gatherings.
She was deeply hurt to discover women, and couples, she thought were true friends, were not — not in her current situation.
To answer your question, Anonymous, that’s exactly what my mother did. She was on her turf, the hostess, and she threw large and small cocktail parties. One of my favorite
souvenirs is passing hors d’oeurves on silver trays at her parties. She wore one of her great
cocktail dresses or palazzo pants, a white shirt and jeweled Papagallo ballerinas and most important, she had a grand time. Sometimes she did cocktails and a buffet, but I can tell you, she knew how to put on a party. In those days, her friends were slugging back Martinis, Gimlets and Manhattans like there was no tomorrow. My mother liked Martinis. (I learned how to make them when I was eight.)
Little by little, she was invited to a few cocktail parties (maybe it was payback, but she didn’t care) and the occasional sit-down dinner.
One thing she learned from her experience as a widow was that if another woman’s husband had intentions of straying, he didn’t need an extra woman at table to push him into the act. Married men contacted her directly.
I had the same experience as a 30-year-old divorcee.
It’s not my area of expertise to give advice, but what I shall offer here is the benefit of our combined experiences. Give parties, go to parties, talk your married women friends into dinners out with you (at the very least lunch), be open to meeting all sorts of new people (I don’t mean to be banal, but sometimes we close down), and if some of you are married or with a partner, make sure you never, ever forget your girlfriends. One of my closest friends, a recent widow, whose husband was very sick for a very long time, told me she never neglected her friends and as a result they have not since neglected her.
A final note: My two best French friends, both married, do not feel it’s necessary to have a boy/girl/boy/girl table. Often single women are invited and the men are charming with them and their wives are equally so.
Since it is practically impossible to add art to my ramblings, let me suggest the value of owning a tuxedo. You can wear it at your own parties, other’s parties, out to dinner and the jacket looks superb with a gray flannel or black pencil skirt and the pants with just about anything. A major investment with major dividends.(You might think twice about wearing it the way Ines de la Fressange has, above, without a little something beneath. That could be a way to make your girlfriends nervous.)