Party Tricks

A pep talk for shredding at your next social gathering.

Illustration by Caitlin H.

Illustration by Caitlin H.

Much like all the other top-tier things in life—impromptu wrestling matches, vicious romantic infatuations, hand-labeled packages of beef jerky at gas stations—the hour leading up to a party derives its fantastic power from its ability to intimidate. Getting ready to go out of an evening fills me with magnificently expectant fun-anxiety! Like, Something is about to HAPPEN to me! Will I meet a rad new compatriot, or make a hilarious mistake, or hook up with some foxy person I have nothing in common with? ALL AT ONCE, MAYBE? How thrilling, for real! And, also, how totally fucking scary, for realer.

When I was a #coolteen, my day-to-day life was pretty dull, so I used to get knock-kneed about what I saw as the potentially transformative power of social functions, no matter how inconsequential they may be on their face. My nerves unraveled with every invitation I received—to such illustrious occasions as “I don’t know, I guess a bunch of us are going to make a fire in that one shopping cart in the woods, if you want to come,” or “Diana’s dad is on a business trip, so we’re all going to play pong in her garage, if you’re around.” (I did not grow up in a particularly remarkable place, young champions.)

What I am trying to say is that I was way too invested: Every party was a potential life-changer. If there were going to be tons of people gathered in a place designated specifically for teenage merrymaking (whoa, I am very cool at talking, this is how you can tell I was a bona-fide Rager Hero Wild Guy in my heyday), my list of pre-party insecurities would be proportionate to the size of the guest list. (Any grouping of more than five people = I SHOULD JUST GIVE MYSELF A WHOLE NEW HAIRCUT REAL QUICK BEFORE I GO!). Those insecurities included, but were not limited to:

• Does my makeup look sexy, or like a very big problem happened on my face? (Related: Was tonight really the best occasion to try wearing eyeliner for the first time?)
• What if my friends all ditch me?
• Is the stain on my skirt detectably ketchup, or can I pretend I got carried away while casually painting in the style of the French Impressionists, as I so often do?
• Is [insert name of halfway-passable guy from health class] going to be there?
• Will he like my eyeliner?
• No one is going to want to talk to me. (I was so sure of this one that it wasn’t even a question.)

In the years since then, I’ve kind of figured out how to get rid of my staggering levels of party-related insecurity while keeping all my YEAH, LET’S SLAY, I LOVE DISCO, I LOVE “KEG”—type enthusiasm fully intact. It might come as a surprise, but the proper party mindset doesn’t (usually) actually involve lying about visual art. Truly, most of these tactics boil down to pretending to be Debbie Harry in the late ’70s, in terms of both my style direction and my attitudinal modes of being, because look at this comet:

debbie harry

But even if you don’t like Blondie…get out of here RIGHT THIS INSTANT, SERIOUSLY, SCRAM! Nah, I kid (although you might want to reconsider). I mean, even if you don’t, you might still find find some of this useful, I hope! Let’s go to the hop! (Again, I am extremely “party” in all the very sickest true-nasty ways.)

When I was getting ready to go out, the first and most pervasive insecurity was always “Yergh, this stupid visage of mine—what is wrong with literally every sub-region of my zones?” I understood that I wasn’t a physically revolting person (in part because no one is), but going out to a possibly paradigm-shifting event made me feel like an unacceptable slime-dumpster in a bad dress (whereas I normally just felt pleasantly half-mutant). I badly wanted to advertise my “personality” (despite the fact that *tinkly ABC Family channel laugh* I still don’t know what that is!! *audience claps supportively and knowingly*) AND look sexy, in case there was somebody there who might, upon seeing me, want to get to know me and/or french me based on how I had arranged my skin, hair, and clothing.

There was nothing wrong with this attitude! The problem wasn’t that my personality was mutable, it’s that I let insecurity dictate my confidence. I knew how I wanted to look, but as a wee person I was sometimes a little skittish about dressing how I liked, lest my friends and family make sneery fun of me. Instead, I made an effort to conform, wrestling myself into clothing I thought was corny and wearing makeup I didn’t like, which is a really great way to NOT feel like you’re beaming your true self out to potentially like-minded others in the world.

Here’s the thing, though: Everyone thinks their body is, in some way, kind of dumb. Everyone is so stressed out about it! So if this is going to be the case anyway, why not wear whatever you want? When I figured out that I was into wearing aprons and cut-up Garfield shirts and penny loafers, I should have worn those things immediately! Like, imagine if I saw a girl wearing that at a party in high school? I’d flip my fucking wig from pure excitement, and probably spill various drinks and snacks all over anyone blocking the path from me to her as I pachyderm-charged toward her with my hand held out like HI, CREW. Be your own version of that girl! A lot of you are waiting for the day when you’re out of high school so you can look/do however/whatever you want, so you might as well speed up this whole process and make yourself happy now, instead of putting on some hateful jeans or whatever and wondering why you don’t feel confident. (And if you need extra reassurance, just give a little snarl like our friend Deborah, above, even if you’re doing it inwardly.)

Whatever you’ve got on, though, you look at least 67 percent better than you think you do, even if you secretly are like, This hairstyle is a private nightmare hell that I was conned into thinking was a good idea. And you’ll look another 67 percent better on top of that if you don’t work yourself up too much about it and just leave the house in whatever makes you feel most like yourself. *warm, encouraging smile* Whoever that is!! *audience passes out en masse from the emotional impact of my sheer wisdom and power*


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  • Chloe22 June 6th, 2014 3:28 PM

    Amy Rose, when I am the editor in chief of W/ELLE/Vogue/Interview, I am so giving you an advice column. But is it okay if I Edie Sedgwick it, or Twiggy it? I can’t be as daring as Debbie! Or pull off the Canadian tuxedo THAT well.

    • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 6:59 PM

      I can’t wait to read whatever magazine you take over, young killer! And, of course—do you 10 thousand percent.

  • Libby June 6th, 2014 3:41 PM

    this article made me feel very much like a goddess with a glorious vocabulary. like, i think this is the best thing i’ve read today (& i read Camus today, so high praise indeed!). i want Amy Rose to write a book so i can read pages and pages of this rip-roaringly delightful prose. also, this article genuinely made me feel better. magic.

    • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 7:00 PM

      i tackle you into a hug ok

  • eva-stark June 6th, 2014 3:45 PM

    These are some pretty awesome tips!!! I’ll use it once I actually start going to any parties haha.

  • flightdust June 6th, 2014 4:55 PM

    AMY ROSE YOU ARE THE BEST!!! My heroes all tend to be pretty introverted (Morrissey need I say more?) so I do a Kermit/Animal crossover which works pretty well.

    • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 6:53 PM

      oh my god you are awesome

  • Erin. June 6th, 2014 5:36 PM

    Amy Rose, I love you. Your writing never ceases to make me feel like a cartoon character (like an awesome one, from Adventure Time). And the timing of this is crazy, because I’m going to a friend’s grad party tomorrow night, so it’ll be nice to have this piece on my mind as I get ready. Though, at age 24, I still haven’t figured out how to dress like I want to, at least parties aren’t as horrible as they used to be. Like, at my first big high school party, I was in tears by the end of the night. It got easier eventually. ^_^

    • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 6:57 PM

      I love you too and am glad we can be weird cartoons together!

  • soviet_kitsch June 6th, 2014 5:52 PM

    i love this article SO MUCH and just as an aside, taking confidence tips from ANY new waver, be it debbie harry or the strawberry switchblade chicks or annabella lwin, is a surefire way to amp up your confidence by about 1000%. something about new wavers is cooler than other groups of musicians

  • Laurataur June 7th, 2014 7:35 AM

    Amy Rose, I just wanna tell you how my day was! It was pretty great! I went to my fave cupcake place and ate one that’s flavor name was Emancipation of Mimi (I know, best cupcake name ever right? It’s also delicious), then I walked my dog with my awesome sister, had a smoked salmon pizza and chatted with a potential new roommate (of which I kept your article about roommates in mind!).

    I work retail and I love asking this question because you can get so many good stories out of it! How was your day?

    • Anaheed June 8th, 2014 6:11 PM

      I’m not Amy Rose, but I want to hear more about this cupcake!

      • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 6:50 PM

        I am Amy Rose, and I agree with Anaheed, plus ask that you share more salacious details about the SMOKED SALMON PIZZA (!). I’m glad you had what sounds like a killer day, Taurmaline.

        My day: I edited some stories for a certain teenage girls’ website, had a staring contest with this one cat that’s always posted up in a windowsill on my block (I lost), and emailed my secret crush this movie poster. I think he liked it? Thanks for asking!

        • Laurataur June 9th, 2014 4:06 PM

          Supp Amy Rose! Deets about the pizza: House-smoked salmon, red onions, fried capers, mozzarella and caviar creme fraiche. And the best part? IT WAS HALF OFF! Yelp deals furreal!!

          Your day sounds solid too! Dat poster doe (insert ok hand sign emoji here) I’d def love it if my crush sent that to me :)

        • Laurataur June 9th, 2014 4:10 PM

          Also, have you listened to the Is That What I Look Like episode of This American Life? Molly Ringwald talks about rewatching the Breakfast Club with her daughter and it’s quite emotionally revealing.

      • Laurataur June 9th, 2014 3:58 PM

        Hey Anaheed!
        Thank you for your interest! Okay so the Emancipation of Mimi flavor is a yellow cake with honey buttercream filling topped with lavender mascarpone frosting, butterfly sprinkles, rainbow glitter, and cascaded with honey and a pinch of salt. I love eating it while listening to Shake It Off and We Belong Together!

      • Laurataur June 9th, 2014 4:07 PM

        I forgot to ask, how was your day?

  • sans.sheriff June 7th, 2014 9:14 AM

    the tip on asking someone about their day and ACTUALLY LISTENING is so solid. personally I think the #1 rule for success in any social interaction is to express genuine interest in the other person, and quit trying to make the conversation about you

    can totally relate to the pre-socialization jitters– I once tried to go to a football game in a dress&heels because I knew a Cute Person was going to be there. my friend got to my house to pick me up & made me go back and change. :p

  • Rowen June 7th, 2014 10:01 AM

    I knew there was a link stylewise between Debbie Harry and Amy Rose! It’s so clear in the Face-ics videos. I find it easier to approximate fictional characters (as their personalities are laid out on paper, including the parts others wouldn’t normally see) so maybe I’ll go for Lydia from Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield books next time.

    • indyea June 9th, 2014 7:34 PM

      dude. The Ashbury/Brookfield series is MY LIFE. so glad another rookie likes those books!! A few of my friends have also read the series and we all agree that sometimes you can forget that they’re not all real people and that Seb and Charlie are not real and that they don’t go to the local high.

      (still got a bit of a crush on both of them though)

      (finding cassie crazy is my favourite, and it trips me out because I recognise some of the suburbs in the books)

  • saramarit June 7th, 2014 12:54 PM

    Oh man I always got what I call my patented fashion panic™ before parties and nights out. I would go out and buy clothes or more often tons of accessories because I couldn’t afford clothes. Before one particularly nerve wracking event I bought about ten different items in the hope they would transform me into the person everyone thought was cool (ahahaha). Inevitably I’d end up wearing what I already owned because it felt comfortable and having a decent time.

  • samieh_m June 7th, 2014 2:26 PM

    My graduation party will be held next week and I was worried if it will be a good one for me or not. I really needed this article :) Now I’m pretty sure that I’m going to have great times.

  • flocha June 8th, 2014 3:21 AM

    Amy Rose you are a simultaneously magical and incredibly useful human being <333

  • oldelectricity June 8th, 2014 9:56 AM

    YES AMY ROSE YES KEEP ON SLAYIN’! this is the best. and funniest and truest. seriously. there is a genuine girl revolution going on always, right now, right here, and it makes me want to go out into the front yard and say (ferociously) YUP. WE’RE HERE. and then do everything i/we want that is good and just and awesome while wearing amazing shorts.

    <3<3<3 rookies!

  • Berries June 8th, 2014 10:33 AM

    I ask people ”How was your day / weekend” all the time since I figured out it works so well! Some act surprised at first and start with hesitation (because they don’t know how much they want to reveal… I think?) but then after a while, they enjoy it. And indeed, just listen and ask for some more details if you want to. You don’t even have to do that most of the time!

    Also – as someone who does not feel comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt most of the time, I know what it is like when you want to dress a certain way but are insecure about how you look, according to other people. Especially when you hear people whining about how ”she looks like a slut” or something ridiculous like that. I don’t wear revealing clothes most of the time, but who says I don’t want to from time to time, eh eh? And what will they think about the days I want to look like a classy gentleman, fifties princess or hippie (which happens at least monthly)? But if you feel rad in a certain outfit, you will rock it and screw them (or actually not!) who think it looks… not the way they want you to look. And when you think about that, that doesn’t even make sense because it’s not their body but your awesome holy cow. And yeah, whenever I see someone dress in a special way, you know what I think? ”Ya go girl/boy/man/woman/human!”

    So two weeks ago, I went to the grocery shop looking like a gentleman with my classic men’s shoes and hat, and I went to school with this vintage orange coat that makes me look pale but I like it anyway. Empowerment.

  • luvcat June 8th, 2014 5:34 PM

    My day was not going so great, but then I ingested this sunshine sandwich of an article with my eyes and now I feel like I could go take the SAT while wearing a bikini and keep my confidence game “on lock”.
    thank you :’)
    Amy Rose for President

    • Amy Rose June 8th, 2014 6:56 PM

      My style direction of summer 2014 is now officially “taking the SAT in a bikini,” so thank YOU for that! I am so glad you liked the piece, ya daffodil.

  • Me June 9th, 2014 11:27 AM

    Hey, is there any chance one of the awesome and worldly Rookie writers sharing with us some tips on how to host a party? My birthday is still a few months away, but I’m super excited for it as I will be the glamorous age of 18, and my parents say I can have a party. But how does one make sure that everyone doesn’t have a totally lame-o night, as well as keeping all of the furniture mess free?