4 Things Movies Always Get Wrong About Parties
I guess I'm what you'd call a party bug (it's like a party animal, but smaller). I'm not exactly painting the town every night, because I'm uncomfortable in crowds and use phrases like "painting the town" because I'm secretly 80, but I've been to my fair share of social events and town-painting hoedowns.
For a while I avoided big parties, because I'm a socially awkward person and because (and I know this is rare) I didn't actually start drinking until I turned 21, because I was a good little boy. When I did turn 21 and was thus societologically obligated to enter the party scene as its newest and hippest gadabout, I turned to movies to learn everything I needed to know about parties. I don't recommend this plan because, as with most things, movies lied about the big party.
You didn't hear about Scott's party? Oh my God, you have to go, everyone's going to be there, even and especially Scott. It's the freaking social event of the freaking year, you can't just stay home. Last year someone drank a lot and then did a wacky or embarrassing thing and everyone who wasn't there to see it is an asshole and has been effectively ostracized from society. Come to Scott's party, and also bring ice.
Movies need parties to be cathartic or life-changing. Superbad treats getting to a crappy house party like an epic quest during which our protagonists confront each other with huge secrets they'd been hiding all year. House Party has that big house party. All of the characters in Can't Hardly Wait use the party as the perfect time to make public declarations of love or wild, out-of-character life decisions. The party in American Pie is the holy grail for our protagonists, all of whom have vowed to lose their virginity at that party, because the best part of having sex is thinking "Hey, my buddy is doing this too, cool."
"I hope Steve's having as much fun as I am. I bet he's smiling. What a cool guy."
But that's just movie law. Hollywood can't make a movie about a realistic party where a bunch of people laugh and drink until the police show up at midnight because the neighbors complained about the music, because no one would care about that movie. So instead they make Project X, a teen party movie where someone drives a Mercedes into a pool, someone brings a flamethrower, and the SWAT team is called.
In reality, the amount of fun you will have at a party is inversely proportional to the level of importance you put on that party.
You want to have fun at a party? Get a good group of folks together, throw on some music, and eat a bunch of snacks.
(Although yes, a flamethrower WILL make any party slightly more enjoyable.)
There's a "The Big Party"
You just graduated. You're going away to college in an impossibly short amount of time, and for the purposes of movie magic, you will likely never see the people you grew up with ever again, because in movies, Thanksgiving doesn't exist and the months between June and September have been cancelled.
Or maybe you're in college and finals are over, which means one thing: It's time for that massive and important party that that massive and important frat throws every year (I hear last year they trained a dog to surf and the dean had sex with the school mascot). You've gone to a few parties in your life, but that was child's play, and there's no time to fuck around anymore: It's time for The Party. EVERYONE will be there; even the people who never enjoyed each other's company in school will set aside their differences and come together over the shared understanding that a keg of crappy beer and whatever pop star currently dominates the radio are meaningful and bigger than whatever petty feuds divide any two people. Someone has either access to a secluded cabin in the woods or parents who left town immediately after graduation, because they've never seen a party movie before or are otherwise just uniquely horrible parents.
"We paid for a time share, we're using a time share. Sorry, you're on your own."
Oh, also remember that this big huge party that everyone's going to is literally the only social event left. So if you want to profess your love to or get in a big fight with someone, this enormous party will be your last opportunity, according to movies. Hell, in Can't Hardly Wait, the protagonist graduates high school, goes to a party with his entire school five hours later, and then leaves town to get ready for college the next day. And that's totally normal.
Remember that you don't actually want to party with your entire high school or college. Why would anyone? I'm not saying my high school was terrible; quite the opposite. Everyone I went to school with got along, or as much as a bunch of hormone-filled idiots can get along. There were 247 kids in my graduating class, and most of them were nice and pleasant to each other, and we threw a senior prom with no fights or wars or anything. But there was a reason cliques formed, and it has nothing to do with popularity or "cool kids vs. freaks"; the people who had similar interests found each other and formed little groups. When I graduated high school, I didn't want to drive out to some cabin full of a bunch of people with whom I'd had nothing in common; I wanted to hang around with the solid, amazing, and weird group of friends I'd gotten close with over the last few years and argue about pop culture and sit on the beach late at night smoking cigars or, if my mom is reading this, quietly watching educational programs on television.
This won't change in college, either. You'll want to go to a few big frat parties full of strangers, sure, because it's important to make new friends and remind yourself why you hate big frat parties (everything is sticky), but mostly you'll find that you'd rather hang out with the people you actually like doing the things you enjoy doing the most (quietly watching educational programs on television).
Everybody Dance NOW
The coolest guys on campus are having a party; I hope you're ready to fucking dance, because that's all you'll be doing. I mean, there's music happening, so EVERYONE is dancing, because that's what parties are, right?
You can tell it's fiction because all the white people have rhythm.
If you can't dance, you should just stay at home, because those women from Orange County choreographed a whole thing and you'd better not get in their way.
Most college parties involve dancing. They also involve sitting and talking. Pizza, maybe. That's how you know it's a good party.
I was actually really stressed out about parties when I got to college, because movies trained me to believe that every college party was a nonstop disco in a sweaty basement with not enough room and nowhere to put down my notebook and oh my God, Dan, why did you even bring a notebook to a party?
I can have fun dancing, but that's also exhausting and not my ideal time every night. Also, parties are where you meet girls, and dancing doesn't rank on the very short list of my "moves." (That list: jokes, making pasta, not being a racist, can hold my breath for a very long time.) It was a real relief for me to learn that again movies lied to me, and that the average frat party has, yes, a dance floor, but also a backyard, where the smokers and Daniels can hang out and talk about Arrested Development or whatever cool, formative show modern college students are obsessing over today (Vampire Something?).
Drinking Will Turn You into a Better and More Interesting Person
Face it: You've had a stick up your ass your entire life. You keep your head down and you work hard and study and you think you're happy but, spoiler alert, you're not. The person who paid attention in school and never missed a deadline isn't who you want to be, but you won't know that until you drink at the big party and unleash the secret party animal that was hiding inside you this whole time. You may not have so much as sniffed alcohol before, but drinking a WHOLE LOT the first time you drink will expose the real you. Loosen up. With alcohol!
Just look at William, the awkward introvert from Can't Hardly Wait:
"Oh boy, I can't wait to try cocaine!"
Alcohol even, apparently, gave him a much bigger dick.
Alcohol can be a useful social lubricant for some people, lowering inhibitions and so on, but it's not like you or anyone has a hidden, amazing, inner-personality Hulk that's just waiting to be awakened by alcohol. A few cups of beer might loosen your tongue or pack on some beer muscles, but it won't drastically change your personality.
That said, binge drinking the very first time you drink MIGHT turn you into a different person, but not the kind of person who sings "Paradise City" and hooks up with two women at a time. It'll turn you into this guy.
"Won't someone please take me home? I'm not singing, I legitimately want to go home, please."
Hey, look at that. There was something hiding inside him, waiting to come out this whole time.