I must have blown up 100 balloons myself. Long ones, short and fat ones, red ones, blue ones, yellow and pink. I carefully looped pieces of tape around my chubby finger – a jerry-rigged double-sided tape – and affixed one side to a balloon, one side to the ceiling. It took me hours of gingerly stepping on and off one of our kitchen chairs to get everything to look “just right.”
I was 10-years-old and hosting my first party. It wasn’t my birthday and it wasn’t a holiday. It was a party for a “club” that I wanted to start called “The Stars Club.” It was 1982 and I had just seen the movie Grease. The Pink Ladies with their shiny satin jackets just blew my mind. An exclusive, fun club for girls. Surely that would be my ticket to popularity.
For weeks, I labored over the invitations. I cut colorful pieces of thick construction paper. I glued. I glittered. When the invites were done, I marched them into class and boldly handed them out. And then I anxiously awaited the date of our first club meeting.
There I sat, on the first Saturday of summer, on one of the four chairs I had arranged in the middle of the den (one for president, VP, secretary, and treasurer). I nibbled from bowls of Doritos and Cheetos, listened for the sound of feet on the gravel driveway or a knock at our front door. Nothing. The minutes ticked by interminably and still nothing.
I sat there for over an hour, well after the start time on the invitation, hoping that someone would show up to the inauguration of The Stars Club. I made up excuses for my friends. I imagined that I had gotten the date wrong. I pictured car accidents and last-minute sicknesses. I ate more chips.
When my mom finally came into the den to check on me, I had already elected myself as president, VP, secretary AND treasurer of the club. I don’t remember what she said to comfort me, partially because I was far too humiliated to actually listen to the words coming out of her mouth. Even in front of my mother, I never wanted to cry. I never wanted anyone to know that I was hurt or injured, ever. (Point of fact: I once ripped off the entire nail on one of my pinky fingers at a church bake sale and yet managed to calmly ask one of the ladies where my mother was with blood dripping off my hand.)
But I was hurt. Deeply. To the core. Being an outsider isn’t easy, never mind your age. We’re all acutely aware of our “status” in social circles and to be left out of things is almost always injurious to our sense of self-worth.
My friends eventually apologized and made their excuses and we all moved on, but I never forgot what sitting alone at my first party felt like – the sting of it. I never really got over it. To this day, whenever I throw a dinner party, I secretly expect that no one will show up. I steel myself to sit all alone with my crudités and party favors. It has never happened again, the dreaded sequel to The Stars Club disaster, but one never knows.
I still throw parties – despite the fact that my first one was such a resounding failure – because I have a desire to connect to others, to befriend people, to know them a little better. It’s who I am. It’s true that I’m not always successful, and that people don’t always like me or want to attend, but sometimes they do.
P.S. I remain the president elect of The Stars Club, but the VP, secretary, and treasurer positions are still open. Did I mention that we have cool jackets?