To Be Young, Fabulous, and Mormon

I’ve never been too much of a party guy. I like to go out approximately once a month to remind myself that I’m still in my twenties and because my gym shorts have gotten too dirty to wear around the house. It’s a nice reminder that I have other clothes not meant for sleeping or work. But all in all, bars and clubs are not where I thrive because in DC, it’s a whole bunch of overworked twenty somethings that like to dance along to a sped up version of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” while buying copious amount of overpriced drinks. They’re sad and tired and horny, and that makes me uncomfortable. I pray for them every night I get home from going out.

However, I do love a good house party. It’s nice because rarely ever is it too loud and you can bring your own libations and drink directly out of the wine bottle. It gives you an opportunity to actually speak to the people around you, which is a lost art with my generation (which probably explains why bars and clubs are so popular). In college, I was in a fraternity, and I tried desperately to turn our parties into classier affairs with themes and decorations, but the closest we ever got was a theme called “Mythical Creatures and Substitute Teachers,” which devolved into college students grinding about each other wearing thick rimmed glasses and fairy wings. Before DC, a house party ultimately meant that there would be a lot of Bassnectar and tequila shots. I just turned on a Bassnectar song to refresh my memory, and I literally got alcohol poisoning.

So last year, when I moved in with Mormons (long story, short: Craigslist is a sneaky bitch), I considered the idea of the house party obsolete. They were older, and I had long forgotten my hopes of a refined, well-planned soiree. I would live with the Mormons, and from time to time, I hoped that maybe we would gather to watch a rerun of Seinfeld and talk about how crazy those Jews in New York are. But it turned out to be more isolating than I could ever imagine. In the first couple weeks, I was invited to a small dinner party on our back porch, and it was gorgeous with white Christmas lights strewn about the tree that hung over the patio. There was conversation and laughs and it was incredible. It was like sitting on the set of Brothers and Sisters, except everyone was painfully conservative and the closest we came to even mentioning sex was when I accidentally grazed my friend’s boob reaching for the green beans.

After that lone dinner party, I was essentially banished to live a life of solitude. I will always wonder if it’s because they saw that infamous boob graze. After a couple of months went by though, I slowly began to befriend the other guy who lived upstairs. He, too, was Mormon, but he liked to bend the rules a bit–I found this out after I discovered that he lifted by wine glasses for a date that he went on. After I discovered his secret about drinking and presumably fornicating, he slowly brought me into the Mormon fold. I mean, I would scarcely be allowed to enter a Temple or do anything that involved the Mormon religion, but he did watch Survivor with me on occasion, and he spoke to me when he came in the house, and that was enough for me, ya know?

Another month went by, and suddenly an event invite popped up on Facebook. My roommate David had invited me to “AN AUTUMN AFFAIR.” It was handily the most elegant event title that I had ever received an as I opened up the event page, there was a slew of information about a baking competition and musical acts and a “rustic fall dinner.” There was even a hashtag for the event–I died. When I came back to life, I called my friend Liz and said, “We officially have an in to fancy DC life. Come to this party with me.” She immediately agreed and we spent the next two weeks coordinating outfits. A couple days after I accepted the event, the host of the party “liked” that I was going, and like a high school girl, I called Liz and said, “He liked that we’re going! God, we’re so in, I can’t even handle it.”

But as the day of the event came closer, I began to wonder if we should even be going to the party. It was at someone’s house we had never met, and it was way above my social class. It was clear that there would be no Bassnectar or grinding to be had. This was everything that I dreamed of, but everything I feared at the same time. And for the event to be so high scale, it also said that it was “BYOB friendly,” which opened up a whole plethora of questions about the evening. Should I bring wine or liquor? Definitely not liquor because that requires some kind of mixer, unless you want to come off as a full-fledged alcoholic. Beer? Maybe, but nothing that comes from the low-class end of the beer aisle. It would have to be something craft, or seasonal at least. Eventually I settled on wine because, duh.

David offered to drive Liz and me to the party with him, which is good, because we probably would have not been able to find the place otherwise. We parked on the street and walked around the back of a gorgeous two story house, and there it was in all its glory. Paper lanterns filled with candles lined the sidewalk that led up to a huge burlap banner that had “AN AUTUMN AFFAIR” written in cursive with fall-colored accents. Liz leaned over to me and whispered, “What is this even?” and we scampered inside. It was every white girl’s fantasy–as if Serena van der Woodsen literally vomited out perfection into someone’s backyard. There were pumpkins and corn stalks and a HAND BUILT STAGE made out of distressed barn wood. In the back were pots of chili and soup and pans full of fall-themed desserts. It was everything that I had read about in books and seen in television shows, but nothing I thought actually existed in real life. At the beverage station (because that’s a thing that people do, I guess), we were told we could put our drinks down. That’s the moment when I started to doubt the party that we were at. There was a small ice bucket tucked neatly under the table with two bottles of wine and a bottle of apple schnapps and about four beers. As for the table itself, it had water and Diet Coke for days, but not a drop of alcohol out in the open. I shrugged it off and figured more people would bring libations as the party got more full
I didn’t notice the table for a while though because Liz and I were making our way through the party–around the bonfire to the table of chili and fancy cheeses and baked goods. Everything matched and had name cards, in case you weren’t sure exactly what kind of upper-middle class cuisine you were about to eat. The disposable flatware and plates were the nice kind–the type of stuff that my family might have tried to wash and reuse if no one were looking. It was a world that I didn’t quite understand, but I wanted to be part of it. We were careful about what we said and who we spoke to, already hoping that if we were on our best behavior, we might be considered for next year’s invitation list, but there were simply things we weren’t prepared for. Liz and I stopped to talk to a couple and they seemed to like us. I told them about my job in marketing and Liz talked about working in public relations, and then they asked,

Oh, are you two married?
Oh.. no, we’re not married.
So, you’re dating?
Nope. We’re just really good friends.

They stopped for a minute and just kind of looked at us, “Oh, well that’s nice, too,” and then the conversation was over. I looked over at Liz, confused as to what we had done. We live in DC, so everyone is all “all the women, who independent, throw ya hands up at me,” but this time, it was almost like… not being married to Liz was somehow wrong. I was about three glasses of wine in, and Liz wasn’t far behind, and that’s when we noticed. The party seemed to be split into parties of two, all of the commingling with other duos, and the biggest difference was that not a single person had anything other than a Diet Coke in their hand…

My second family back home is Mormon, so this wasn’t my first rodeo. I started putting all of the pieces together. The elaborate spread of food that an entire army couldn’t eat, a party theme that emphasized the accents of the season, party favors that had an especially strong reliance on DIY projects, background music that leaned heavily toward the folk and indie genres, and most of all… Diet Coke. Diet Coke all over the damn place. This was not a regular party. This was a Mormon festival, and I hated myself for not being able to tell sooner. I mean… there were candles in MASON JARS. Everything screamed that this was put together by a Millennial Latter-Day Saint follower, but I was too encapsulated by the presentation. It was more over the top than anything I had seen before, and as soon as I told Liz, we ran in search for David. We needed shelter. We needed direction! We were lost lambs in a pack of… well, lambs.

But as we ran up to the porch, he appeared. Not David, but the host of the party. We hadn’t been introduced yet, but it was clear that he had planned it. He was a vision in plaid and thick-rimmed glasses, encapsulated in a ray of light making him appear as Joseph Smith, Martha Stewart, and Carson from Queer Eye from the Straight Guy, simultaneously. Yes, that is correct–my suspicions were correct: this was more than just a Mormon party. This party was designed by the most powerful of creative forces–a gay Mormon. He welcomed us and asked us if we had a drink. It seemed like a trick question, so we just kind of stared at him. There were no right answers anymore. He just kind of looked at us and said, “Well, the beverage table is over there.” I looked back over and there was no more alcohol than before. There might have been more Diet Coke, but definitely no more alcohol. Diet soda everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

Seeing that we were confused by the notion that we could continue to drink, he ushered us over to the beverage table and made us a drink that we later named “fallmosas.” He mixed apple cider with champagne and said, “I have some people you might like hanging out with.” He walked us back over to the porch, and then around a corner tucked away from the rest of the party. There stood three gay guys and a woman who clearly loved Merlot. It was obvious that we had been relegated to the sinner’s corner of the party, but it was okay, because these people seemed to understand the importance of “the sauce.” We exchanged notes on how we had come to arrive there. One of the guys had found the host of the party on Grindr and then invited a couple other friends along. The wine lady knew him through some kind of Romney campaign effort. I told them the story of how I was living in the Mormons, and they all waited with bated breath, wondering what interesting facts I would reveal.

But the truth is, there wasn’t a lot to reveal at that point. I was only a month in or so, and nothing about my roommates was interesting because they were Mormon. The best stories I had about them were simply because they were just really strange people in general. Liz and I watched the rest of the party unfold from afar, tucked safely in our corner of shame. We both knew that this would be the last time we’d ever be invited to a party this nice, unless one of us threw one ourselves… which essentially meant if Liz threw it, because there’s no way I could stay invested in an event long enough to pull off all of the stops this party had.

For the rest of fall, we reminisced about the party and attempted to recreate the fallmosas well into November. We admired the domesticity needed to put together such an event and would sometimes wonder how someone could have enough time to plan something like that out. While there are hardworking gay Mormons out there building distressed barnwood stages and planning out elaborate fall meals, I’m blogging about them and/or eating Nutella directly out of the jar while watching The Help. I suppose we all have our place in this world.

I have long sense moved out of the Mormon house. David moved to Colorado and has been spotted exploring the mountains of Brazil (no, seriously. He just posted a picture next to Christ the Redeemer, like it wasn’t a big deal. If you ever read this, you’re one of my favorite people I’ve ever met–you are missed). After that, I was banished away to live three months in my upstairs room alone with only a Roku and a bottle of hot sauce. I eventually received a text explaining that I would not be invited back once the lease was up. But that party will live in infamy. As for my own party planning aspirations, I will just leave that to the experts. Some people are meant to construct a party that balances the seemingly complex combination of gingham and burlap, and some people are meant to just admire it.

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