Last weekend, I attended a party. This in itself is big news, as it means people finally consider me someone who will not derail a good time. It is bigger news because I attended in costume, and I participated in group competition.
The competition involved red Solo cups arranged in pyramid formation, rectangular tables sagging at the middle, Ping Pong balls, and an adult beverage. For those who like their long stories short, the competition was beer pong. For those getting any ideas, everyone involved was (well) over 21.
The game is to toss the balls so they land inside the red Solo cups. This is a feat that requires no small amount of hand-eye coordination, wrist strength, and a sense of humor. The only part of that equation I had going for me was that I had hands, eyes, and wrists on the night in question.
The first time I played beer pong was at this same party last year. I never played in college, which in some circles means I did not attend college. It’s also important to underscore that I have never consumed a beer. This statistic includes last weekend.
The second time I played beer pong (to wit, last weekend), I managed my pre-game jitters by absorbing the dynamics of the party. Surrounded by approximately 50 other couples, I was primarily awestruck that the hosts have so many friends. I had some leftover brain capacity to marvel at the duality that is life as a parent.
Say the word “parent,” and most of us think of someone who speaks in instructions, reads labels, and believes in scheduling sleep. Young parents are adorably terrified, experienced parents are fun again, and the parents in between are a volatile mix of quietly bewildered and publicly car-pooling. When parents interact with other parents, it usually involves children or child-related activities, like school orientation or soccer tournaments or serial play-dating.
Imagine the confusion lurking beneath every carefree conversation last weekend. Here we were, adults whose alarm clocks come with speech patterns, and we were being … silly. We were having fun using outdoor voices. We were making messes on tables and we weren’t even cleaning them up. I swear I locked eyes with kindred spirits, and our looks confirmed we were wondering the same thing: should we pat ourselves on the back for embracing our “student loans don’t seem that bad” era, or should we go directly home and ask our kids for forgiveness?
It was hard not to get swept up in the moment. The party had a theme, motivational signposts, and “strongly encouraged” costumes. Everyone obliged on the costumes, including the doctor wearing his pink cowboy hat that blinked sparkly lights, the ex-investment banker wearing her blond wig under a backwards-facing trucker hat, and the attorney wearing a t-shirt proclaiming his love of bacon. There were sweatbands, coaching whistles, and a Gene Simmons.
We hooted and hollered as those little plastic orbs glanced off those plastic cups. We whooped and whistled when the ball landed inside the cup with a discreet splash. We threw up our hands, like we’d just been told Falmouth had been named the next Olympics host suburb, when our hosts won the tournament (dethroning champions who were neither married nor parents, also known as “cheaters”).
Tomorrow, I will see some of these parents at day-care drop-off. Others, I’ll nod at as we wrestle our children into shopping carts. Still others, I’ll steal from in the form of a pleasant babysitter.
But last weekend, together, we were young again. For four hours, we behaved as if our only worry for the next day was getting up early enough for breakfast. We under-dressed and over-accessorized. We pretended that what we were doing was important and interesting.
And it was important, and it was interesting, because it reminded us that we are more than the people we have created. We are the people who see a referee at a pong party and think “great planning.” Beer pong may be college’s basement activity, but self-discovery is college’s cover letter promise. Last weekend gave us something to write about.