“Dear God, the stripper’s here,” a perfectly clipped Yankee accent announced as I walked into the lusciously landscaped New England backyard. Anxious to get a look at her myself, I whipped my head around, only to see my shadow. “Good grief; they’re talking about me!”
It was August of 1993 and I was invited by Kate to a “lawn party” at her parent’s Connecticut home. Having never been to a “lawn party” (or Connecticut) my curiosity was piqued. Was it like a bridal shower? Should I bring something for the lawn? Weed killer? Rose Spray? Perhaps something organic like fox urine to repel those pesky little chipmunks and groundhogs? I decided to cover my bases and brought a chilled bottle of Chardonnay and a plant.
Kate hailed from a family of Protestants who booked passage on the Mayflower (they really did!) and followed the social register like my family followed the New York Yankees. Ignoring the stripper remark, I followed the white-pebbled path to the cool plush carpet of green grass. Consciously, my toes death-gripped the thong of my platform flip-flops in an effort to avoid kicking-up too many pebbles. I suppressed the urge to yank on my shorts that were dangerously defying gravity with every step I took.
I never attended a party where the congregation made no noise. It was like someone pressed the “mute” button. You could hear my family’s dinner-table conversation three blocks away. As foreign as the silence was the fact that there was not one strand of frizz, everyone appeared cool, and without exception, every hand held a perfectly leveled martini glass.
Kate introduced me to her parents, Thurston Howell the Third and Lovey, who greeted me like I was an exotic…dancer. With eyes cast critically down, Lovey informed me, “Dear, no need to bring your own wine. We have a fully stocked bar.” Apparently, people in this social sect do not bring “gifts” to parties—they send monogrammed thank you notes afterwards. In my family, you bring a little something and leave with a lot of generic foil balls.
I left the Chardonnay to sweat on the butcher-block countertop, dumped the plant on the table, and made my way outside to the bar. I asked for a beer. Amused, the bartender stepped aside exposing the shelves of liquor. There were so many 750ml bottles of Beefeater Gin that it looked like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Apparently, only Beefeater martinis were being served. I suppose the label’s Beefeater Yeoman was reminiscent of the motherland from whose shores their ancestors sailed. Also, except for triangular cucumber and butter sandwiches, there was absolutely no food. The Pastor, ordering his third martini, informed me that the congregation suppers at the club on Saturdays, and cucumber sandwiches are light hors d’ouevres. Personally, a tray of ziti would have been the perfect hors d’oeuvre, but that’s Jersey talking.
Halfway through the martini I felt a radiating loss of sensation in my pelvic region which is the supporting beam of the body. When it goes, it’s like a wrecking ball to the central nervous system and takes everything with it. My body became an amoeba that’s been sliced in half; each half uncontrollably slithering in different directions. I tried to sit on the cushioned patio chair, but, to Lovey’s consternation, I kept sliding off. The Cool Connecticut Yankees were confidently drinking their fifth or sixth martini, eyeballing me like some outlandish curiosity. Clearly, there’s an inherited talent to drinking martinis in the blazing August sun without physically dissolving. A talent this Jersey Girl did not possess.
I measured this experience against the previous week’s where I attended my friend’s mother’s bat mitzvah. There was so much food that I felt like I was a member of a wandering tribe on the buffet line. Everyone mingled, danced, ate, drank, and ate more! I fished someone’s grandmother’s teeth out of the toilet bowl after she switched from white wine to red. By the end of the night I was a member of the family. They even sent me home with an enormous tray of food and an invitation to Bubbie’s 80th!
These two seminal experiences taught me that the secret to having a great time is to drink like a Protestant, but party like a Jew.