Halloween night — almost the end of October. In a week, I’ll have gone two months on this new regimen which, to be honest, involves an average of a drink a week. And they’re usually weak and always savored. So, yes, I have come to interpret the medical instruction to not have alcohol as “just don’t drink like you normally do,” and I’m sticking to that.
This weekend was full of false lashes and party attempts. Friday night I debuted my planned costume, Janice from the Muppets, to total floppy silence. By that I mean that I attended two events — both built on the solid Bay Area foundation of bands paying tribute to other bands — and my costume went virtually unrecognized. One person knew I was a Muppet, but didn’t know which one. Or maybe he didn’t know her name. It doesn’t matter. The first party was too brightly lit and populated by too few folks I knew, but I thought maybe the younger crowd was the real problem. Then we went to a darker, wilder scene, one where I saw dozens of people I know, a good portion of whom I love. And they’re older. Still, no one got the damn costume.
I had thought Janice was iconic; perhaps she’s just iconic to me. (I’ve always said that my Muppet self was born of a union between Gonzo and Janice.) Regardless, some combo of the costume failure, the two guesses of Blossom (BLOSSOM, Y’ALL), the single beer I nursed at the first party wearing off by the time I got to the second, and the wild success of the husband costume (with people pointing from across the room and mouthing words like “siiiiiick”) added up to a no-fun-Fanny in no time. I tried. I really did. I even tried not to talk about my sobriety. But then I ended up talking to someone who has been mostly alcohol-free by choice for her entire adult life, and my temper frayed. Hopefully my annoyance didn’t show. Hopefully I was just no fun. Because inside I was seething. I’d gotten to the point of the night where most folks I knew were on drink three or more, and I wanted to be with them. They just seemed to be having sooo muuuuch fuuuun. Jerks. So it wasn’t long before I gave up and dragged King Costume Husband out into a Lyft.
I am thinking now about how my Muppet of choice is one who is most likely wasted on something most of the time. And I am thinking now that maybe it wasn’t the best costume choice in the first place.
But that epiphany hadn’t arrived by the time I woke up Saturday morning. I just knew that I had a new costume to come up with by nightfall. After many exploratory Facebook posts and multiple group texts and even one phone call, this ended up being a milkmaid costume, complete with apron and white-blonde wig, from my neighbor’s magical Halloween box. (It may have also been a little bit obscene.) I then proceeded to get jacked up on sugar and caffeine before heading to house party thrown by dear ones, attended by many others. And I tore that place up: I danced and I pranked and I interrupted conversations and clowned like a child. I tried to help randoms — every good party needs some — feel comfortable, even tried to help clean up broken glass (and failed but, you know, I tried). And, since there were folks there who read this blog, the boozelessness came up. And that was fine. I didn’t bring it up. They did. And the conversations were funny and interesting and non-prescriptive, and were interrupted occasionally in that delightful party way of fractured conversations and enthusiastic greetings.
Oh, and by the way, I did not drink.
I may have frightened some people. (Did I mention the costume was a little obscene?) I may have been occasionally inappropriate. (Really just once, I think. Sorry, Bart.) But the moral of the story is that I think I may have found my alcohol-free party personality, and it’s best described by a word I’ve been avoiding for some years now: ZANY.
For at least a decade, maybe more, I’ve had this recurring experience where I meet someone for the first time, and the conversation sags pretty quickly so I just basically go for it: I tell a story or unravel a crackpot theory or wax philosophical about pop culture, ignoring any signs my poor fellow conversant may be putting out that they are just not following. And when I run out of breath or yarn or both, there’s at least a beat of silence and then they they will say something to the effect of: “You remind me of my cousin/college roommate/upstairs neighbor.” And I will respond (or sometimes, if I’m feeling charitable, just think of responding), “Oh, are they zany?” Because, well, the zane is strong in me. No one wants to be straight from central casting — that’s why I’m from Long Island but have no accent, why I won’t let you bag on my decade-and-a-half home state of Florida but will do so rhapsodically myself as needed. You don’t know me! You don’t know someone like me! I’m not just … SOME ZANY JOKER.
But you know what? I am. Heidi Klum can dress up like Jessica Rabbit for Halloween, but I realized a few years ago that Roger Rabbit is my spirit animal. Zany, yes — but with killer comic timing and undeniable charm and a heart of cartoon gold. Also, I did say that my other Muppet parent is Gonzo.
So perhaps that’s the way forward: embrace the zany. The zane? Is that a thing? You may have to wait a while to find out … I’m hoping to spend the month of November working on a writing project that isn’t this blog. But I will check in close to Thanksgiving, as I prepare to navigate the perils of that wine-soaked feast. Not sure how zany I can be with that much tryptophan in my system. We shall see.