In my youth, the term “partier” was a noun. Actually, it was closer to a professional designation, like doctor or lawyer. A typical conversation about a person’s attributes went something like this.
“Do you know that guy?”
“That guy, over there, in the plaid jacket and Lee jeans.”
“Oh, that guy! Yeah, he’s a partier.”
In olden times, partiers were, well, the life of the party. But now they’re a public menace.
Ask the group of Québécois influencers currently cooling their heels in Mexico how they’re feeling about their airplane proclivities, and you’re likely to get a beer thrown at your head.
But they’re not alone in placing partying above all else.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney and pals were photographed drinking and yakking. It wasn’t a party per se, but then who gets to the draw the line between a work event and a social one? Not the little people!
Even us common folk have found ways to flout the non-partying authorities. My son informs me that when a nightly curfew was reinstated in Quebec last month to help curb the COVID curve, people in Montreal immediately began having “darties” (daytime parties) to get around the rules.
In the face of a deadly global pandemic, why won’t we stop partying?
It might be human nature. When faced with imminent death, there is an impulse to think, "Fuck it: if I’m going down, I’m going headfirst. YOLO! Hand me that tray of shots and let’s get nekkid!"
One of the main points of a party is to break the rules. Bust out the booze, jump in the pool, make-out atop the photocopier. Think of every party scene in a film: the point is to get crazy, punch holes in the drywall, throw up in the rose bushes, and wake up the next morning wearing only a holiday wreath and a pair of welder’s goggles.
But giving one and one’s buddies licence to party during a pandemic, while everyone else is sitting morosely in their living rooms trying to do the right and responsible thing, is grounds for a solid smackdown. Pity the old broomhead that is Boris Johnson getting excoriated in the press for what’s popularly been called "partygate."
That the scandal has consumed the pages of British papers is understandable. It’s delicious stuff. The jokes are flowing thick and fast at the moment, with folks going hogwild on Johnson’s statement that he “thought it was a work event.”
Whether in fact Johnson is "tits up" as an unnamed party loyalist (no pun intended) suggested in the Guardian remains to be seen. If partying does bring down the U.K. government, there is a certain poetic justice in that. It almost makes you want to celebrate and have a wee party.
Goddamn it! What did I just say? It’s a wine and cheese work event, Sharon, okay? Get your terminology right.
It goes both ways of course, with both the political right and the left accusing each other of seeking frivolity in these grave and serious times. When U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contracted COVID-19 after a vacation to Miami, Fox News staff must have fallen on their knees and screamed for joy.
But let’s be honest. It’s hard to deny the call of the wild rumpus, no matter who you are or what is happening.
In these sad and quiet times, I’ve sought out films that feature epic, out-of-control bashes. There are lots of them, from the sublime to the ridiculous, most often containing elements of both. See Booksmart, Sisters, Animal House, Say Anything, Office Christmas Party, Superbad, Dazed and Confused and The Great Gatsby. The list is endless.
A major rager is a feature of every film about teenagers. Even the scary ones. As the second film in the Scream series elucidated, big things happen at parties. See the second edition of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, wherein that jive turkey Freddy Kreuger wrecked the pool party fun times and annihilated a bunch of polo shirt-wearing bros.
That’s right — even in the face of Freddy and his finger knives, people won’t stop partying.
Bring on the French sociologist to explain the “collective effervescence” that comes from dancing, drinking and carousing with a whack of other people.
Although the term was originally used by Émile Durkheim to refer to religious ecstasies, it pertains equally well to less sacred events like Wu-Tang Clan concerts and Burning Man raves. The transformation from ordinary boring existence to something way more out there requires a collective experience. Meaning lots of bodies in one space. Drugs, liquor and crazy dancing also help.
Most people are happiest when they’re with other people. Which is of course why the pandemic has been so horrendous. All the normal social rituals upended. And still the underground gatherings proceed.
Many an oldster has expressed horror at the youth who’ve refused to give up their hard partying ways. But as it turns out, the oldies have been hosting their own events all along, albeit more sit-down versions, swilling white wine in the back garden.
The truth is that parties are good for people, even if you feel like you were run over by a semi-truck the following day. In an era when individualism has run us ragged, snatched away the greater social good and reduced humanity to a state of solitary sadness, a great party is a reminder that we’re all part of the same big, strange experience called life on Earth.
When the pandemic is truly and finally over, a grand way to reunite would be to throw the world’s biggest bash under the banner of a party planet.