Not My Natural Habitat

I have never been a party person.

Now, let me elaborate on “party”. I am fine with parties with groups of friends (or even friends of friends who are strangers to me) hanging out at a friend’s house and talking, playing board-games, and eating and drinking. That is an awesome party! I love those parties.

But parties at a building I have never gone to that are dark and crowded with strangers all standing around and yelling at one another because the music is so loud? I am freaked out. 

Only once in college did I go to a Frat Party, mainly because one of my best friends begged and pleaded with me to join her. In my group of friends in college the minority of us enjoyed hanging out, watching movies, and playing games. The majority liked to go to parties. Usually I was able to hide away in my room with the excuse of homework every time there was a party. Everyone knew I was just reading, and that was my type of night. But I had that one friend that would always beg me to go with her to parties and somehow I’d escape her persuasion.

Except for that one time I didn’t and was forced to go a Frat Party. It was terrifying. There were people everywhere, insanely loud music, and dark so I couldn’t see who was around me. I huddled so close to my friend that she wasn’t able to move around freely, which is why she probably never asked me to join her again at a party.

I usually avoid parties like that but will sometimes join my friends if I want to see them and be involved. It’s the difference between feeling like I’m being forced into a situation I don’t like versus agreeing to go into a situation I don’t like because I’m curious about what it will be like. The weekend of Halloween was like that – my boyfriend was out of town and I wanted to spend time with my friends. They were going to an after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant at 11pm that night. Yes, you read that correctly. An after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant. The five dollar charge included a free Chinese buffet.

I was super curious about this concept of a party in a Chinese restaurant, and the free buffet didn’t hurt either.

We arrive there at 11:15pm and there was already a line out the door. I’d never been to a party where there was a bouncer at the door, so I awkwardly stood there waiting my turn. I glanced around at the people (who looked way more cool and laid-back than I did) and talked to my friends (who also looked way more cool and laid-back than I did). I slowly edged closer to one of my friends, as if her presence would protect me from social interaction.  By the time we were stamped and ushered into the building I was glued to that friend.

I’d been to eat at this restaurant before. It was a bright place with a little koi pond in the middle and pandas painted on the walls. I hardly recognized it now. It was dark with music pumping and a smoke machine making it so hazy the koi pond and pandas looked sinister. I knew I wasn’t in my normal scene right then and there, but I couldn’t just run out the door in front of all the people. Plus, there was a crowd behind me blocking the way.

There’s something else you need to know about my friends as well. We’re all pretty awkward and weird, yet that doesn’t stop them from getting out and having fun. But I could tell the two I was with didn’t really know what to do at this place, possibly because we had all eaten here before and seeing a party in place of a Chinese restaurant was kinda odd. I figure that the pictures of sinister pandas on the wall didn’t really help either.

We made our way over to a booth, sat down, looked at each other and said together: “This is weird.”

We sat there for a bit, watching people come in with drinks and greet everyone by yelling over the music, and then I asked the important question: “Where’s the free buffet?”

It was a small Chinese buffet with rice, chicken, spring rolls, and crab Rangoon. It was all pretty good and what you’d expect from a free Chinese buffet. I would have gone back for seconds but the larger crowd kept me back. While I usually have no trouble fighting my way over to the food, the atmosphere kept my stomach in check.

After we ate we hung out in the booth talking/yelling at one another and watching the people.

“Alright,” a friend said after a longer pause, “we should do something while we’re here. Let’s boogie or bounce.”

I was totally down with bouncing by then as the desire to run was slowly creeping up on me. (And if I couldn’t have a second plate of food there was obviously no reason to stay.) But my friends decided to boogie for their 5$. And I can’t boogie for the life of me. I stood there awkwardly, holding my purse and swaying side to side while my friends did almost the same thing, except they looked more at ease than I did.

Finally, after an hour and a half, we bounced. As we left there were people still lined up to come inside so we also had to find a path through a crowd and step over broken beer bottles that had been dropped.

“That was weird,” we all said again, but none of us (including myself) could think of it as a wasted evening. Because when we all saw the event of an after-hour party in a Chinese restaurant we were all curious.

“If we hadn’t gone,” one of my friends said, “we would have wondered what this was like. Not knowing is 10x worse…an now we know what happens here.”

Knowing what happens once a Chinese restaurant closes for a party was worth placing myself in a situation I usually don’t find myself in. Plus, free Chinese food!

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