So, I live in West Virginia. I know this. My driver’s license is from West Virginia. My permanent address belongs to a droopy, little house on a crooked, little street in West Virginia. My medical school even has “West Virginia” at the beginning of its name.
Sometimes, however, I forget. It just slips my mind. I’ve grown accustomed to living in a place where Kmart is the anchor store of the “mall,” and the “mall” consists of Kmart plus 4 privately owned stores connected by an internal walkway along with an Auto Zone and a Mexican restaurant next door. I no longer take notice to an old man wearing a pair of ragged overalls (and nothing else) to Walmart. (Maybe I don’t notice because I’m at Walmart at least once a day because it’s the only place to buy anything in this town.)
Well, a few weekends ago my wife and I were invited to a cocktail party at a friend’s house. We were elated! We had talked about having a cocktail party at our house where everyone gets all dressed up and mingles around our little, droopy house drinking fancy drinks and having fun. There are, however, two problems with this plan.
The first is that we probably only have 5-7 friends who we would want to invite to a cocktail party at our house. This would make mingling and small talk problematic because they’re people we see daily. We’d have nothing to talk about because the only thing that had happened since we last saw them was us putting on fancy clothes and pulling some appetizers out of the oven. I envision this conversation topic not being wildly fruitful in keeping us entertained for the evening.
The second problem is that a cocktail party involves making cocktails. We don’t do that at the Hampton house. Our cocktail making involves popping the top off a bottle of Yeungling. Sometimes, however, if we’re feeling fancy we’ll blend up those pre-made margaritas they have on all the end caps at Walmart that proclaim on the label “ALCOHOL IS IN IT!!!!”
This is why we were so excited to go to a cocktail party at another person’s house who knows lots of people and knows how to make cocktails. Now, we were told ahead of time that dressing up was optional, but we figured that some people would take the chance to get fancy. This opportunity presents itself so rarely in West Virginia.
Well, Saturday evening rolled around, and Bethany and I pulled on our little outfits. She donned a pink cocktail dress with black polka dots, and I even went as far as wearing a skinny tie and suspenders. We both looked hot! As we stood in front of the mirror together, it confirmed in my mind that we are most definitely one of the best looking couples in southeastern West Virginia. As I straightened my tie and she checked her makeup, I had a momentary feeling that the instant we walked out our front door the paparazzi would be yelling our names and trying to capture how stunning we looked. We were instead greeted by a stray cat and the light of the street lamp, but we looked far too fantastic to let this dampen our spirits.
As I replay our entrance to the party in my mind, it kind of runs in slow motion. I pull open the screen door and see our friend scurrying around her kitchen. She is wearing a nice dress, and this is encouraging because at least we won’t be the only people dressed up. We walk further into the house and see a couple more women, one in a skirt and another in dress slacks. While we’re more dressed up than they are, we still feel confident in our apparel.
Our friend gets us drinks, and as it’s a cocktail party, Bethany and I both think it’s fitting to start with the house cocktail of the night. We both grasp our martini glasses and steal a glance at each other. I’m sure that we’re both secretly thinking that if somebody saw just the two of us, they would think that we were at a party on the upper east side of Manhattan. This thought lingers momentarily in my mind until we turn the corner from the kitchen into the living room.
I honestly don’t think that I have ever felt so grossly out of place in my life. It was kind of like that dream where you arrive at a party completely naked and everyone else is wearing clothes. But instead of being naked, I was wearing the most metro-sexual clothing I own. And instead of the crowd wearing just normal clothes, every man in the room was wearing flannel. The irony of the situation was heightened even further by the fact that I was holding a martini glass with cranberries floating in it, while each of them was gripping a bottle of Bud light. There was a part of me that felt like James Bond walking into a biker bar, but in hind sight, I feel that this would have been one of the last metaphors that my fellow party guests would have used to describe me.
However, this night taught me several valuable lessons.
1. I’M IN WEST VIRGINIA. While our town is unique and has art galleries and lots of artsy people living in it, our state has its stereotypes for a reason. This evening fully reminded me of the origin of many of these stereotypes.
2. Always take a sexy, little blonde in a cocktail dress with you wherever you go, and you will never have to worry about being the center of attention at a party. (Bethany is pretty hot on any given day, but she looked absolutely ravishing this night. I feel that she strongly added to my Bond image).
3. I never want to take myself so seriously that I miss out on a good time because I’m worried what other people are thinking about me. Whether overdressed or underdressed, I want to enjoy myself wherever I am. I am grossly deceiving myself if I think that this will be the last time that I look out of place at a social event. I just need to go with it.
4. At least I wasn’t the guy wearing a sweater vest.