Party Tricks

A pep talk for shredding at your next social gathering.

As we move on to concerns that involve interacting with faces and brains other than your own (which is what an actual party actually is, after all), let’s quickly get one thing out of the way: You are nothing less than a goddamn delight. Maybe you are a shy delight, or one who doesn’t have much esteem for your peers—that’s all right! But tonight, we’re doing a different thing and shucking off those modifiers to let the “delight” part of your personality stand victoriously by itself. In the…spot-de-light, one might say.

Quick—imagine Debbie Harry wryly rolling her eyes at any Ramone at a party. Would she be nervous about hanging out with the kids from your soccer team? It’s amazing how much more confident that thought instantaneously makes me feel in any and every situation: Whoever your heroine is, what would she (or he, whatever!) do in moments of self-doubt? Do that!

Pretty much everybody in a large social setting is, on some level, nervous that they’re doing a bad job at being a cool ’n’ fun individual capable of having enjoyable interactions with the people around them. What you’re feeling as you shakily apply mascara while you wait for your ride is the same thing all those folks you’re nervous about seeing in half an hour are feeling, too, in their own bedrooms. If you bear that in mind, it’ll be easier to approach those people and talk to them—it will be extremely generous of you, in fact, and people will probably be grateful that someone else has taken on the responsibility of instigating social interaction. And there are mad methods by which you can do this!

Even if a particular soirée is filled with people whose tastes and interests are dramatically different from your own, you can find plenty to talk about. If you have nothing in common, it’s not going to seem forced when you ask them a slew of questions about what they’re into—you genuinely don’t know what makes that stuff great, and, boy, do people ever love saying their dang old opinions, especially concerning the topics that monopolize their brains most fervently! If nothing else, you will come away with lots of brand-new ideas about how and why people like the stuff they like in this weird world. Don’t be too scared of getting trapped in a conversation you ultimately find boring as hell—you can always get out of any interaction by being like, “Huh! That’s really cool. Excuse me, I’m going to get some water.” You need to drink water to live, so it’s a foolproof, graceful exit!

And sometimes you will find that you and whatever other humanoid attendee you’re standing next to by the fridge both like the same thing, and the next thing you know, you’re learning something new about your favorite basketball player’s childhood practice routines, or catching wind of a My Bloody Valentine EP you didn’t even know was floating around in the world. (Or you can impart such wisdoms to the other human: I don’t know a whit about basketball because I am a common bedroom slug, but if the second thing comes up, break the glass on this full stream of MBV’s You Made Me Realise.)

You also definitely don’t have to stick to a formula that goes, like, “I like [National Lampoon movies/Sudoku/Stan Lee/Miu Miu/whatever]. You?” My number one most foolproof way to get someone talking: asking “How was your day?” and then actually listening to the answer. (I learned this move from Anaheed, and it’s kind of a fan favorite among the Rookie staff. Now you know our secrets of sparkling conversation.) This worked out in pretty fine fashion when I went to a reading earlier tonight with my friend Hermione. She is a magnet for interesting people, and as she introduced me to each one, I asked, “How was your day?” I heard stories about virtuoso drummers, mysterious and wealthy ex-lovers, tumultuous ballet practices, plus more, plus I’m hanging out with some of those people again next week just because we had such a nice conversation. And, yo, I know this trick sounds dumb and formulaic, to which I would say, “Sure, maybe it is,” save for the fact that its results almost never are, unless you encounter the rare bore who just, like, scrunches up their gas-face and is like, “Fhnnne,” and that person is a friggin’ wash anyway—or maybe just a little self-conscious, and you know how that feels. Plus, I really do want to know how everyone’s day was! (Please tell me how your afternoon is going if you want—I will love it.)

Now, what about approaching/meeting that specific and hot Thad or Linda that you’ve had your eye on from across the room? Are you nervous about that? You shouldn’t be, because all the same “everyone feels this roiling swamp of self-doubt inside ’em” maxims above also apply to Thlinda (our stand-in object of desire for the rest of this bit). Introduce a topic of conversation with Thlinda as you would with anyone else, and, if things seem to be going swimmingly, well, that’s wonderful news and you can see what else might feel right from there on out. And if not, no big deal—go talk to Lad instead, if you want.

If you’re not really feeling anyone else at a party, though, in a friend way OR a crush way, it’s not the end of the world. When all else fails, in most cases, you have the excellent option of dancing, running around, and otherwise hanging with your friends—the best parts of any night out tend to be the things you’ll be able to inside-joke about together the next day. If you’re still not convinced, that’s OK, too: There’s nothing wrong with feeling a little withdrawn. Taking your time to work up your party nerve doesn’t mean you flunk Tubular Rockin’ Teen Party 101. Everyone has their own pace to work at, and that pace might differ from night to night and party to party, which just verifies that you are a living person capable of mood swings and not one of those animatronic grinning good-time rats in the band at Chuck E. Cheese. (Probably.) You’re not going to have a perfect night every time you go out, even if things go totally fine, and this isn’t a referendum on your relative funness as a person. I will say, though, if you work past the impulse to fall back on your shyness or insecurity, you will have a significantly better time, significantly more frequently, in the long run.

And when in doubt, just be Debbie Harry. ♦


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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?