On The List (With Melissa Rich): Where Is the Fun in Event-Fueled Nightlife?
Feigned exhaustion is out!
What a month, party girls! Fashion Week, a new bar by Nicholas Braun — I hope we were all prepared! In an insane twist of events, I found myself going from the Grammys to New York Fashion Week with only a few days in between. It felt as though I took part in some sort of bicoastal triathlon, competing in networking, gatecrashing, and social climbing, arriving at the finish line only to remember that the actual goal was to have a good time. Does everyone else realize that? Am I snorting crazy pills?!
Nearly all of the people I met or friends I ran into greeted me with the same feigned exhaustion, an identical performance of boredom with a chorus of, “It’s just so much…” Rooms filled with interesting, creative people adopting the alluring identity of, “tired.” I even met an actual 22-year-old at her first-ever fashion show. When I asked her how the week had been, with her eyes full of life, she replied, “So draining.” We did happen to be standing behind Mary and Roman from Selling Sunset, but still.
While commitment to non-enthusiasm (one of the more boring social power plays) is nothing new, and I’m sensitive to the fact that it’s a difficult environment to keep one’s self-esteem intact, it did seem exacerbated. Maybe it’s an attempt to combat the desperation that flooded Fall 2022 fashion week like Santal 33 when TikTok users took to the app to actively sell PR email lists. To be clear, I consider gatecrashing to be one of the finest arts, but this does not respect the craft. Are we actually not having fun? Or are we pretending not to have fun so we don’t look like losers who paid $90 to make fashion PR girls’ lives hell?!
I’m aware, of course, that for most of the invite list, this is work, and work is historically not fun. It’s easy to get jaded when you’ve been required to be at glamorous events filled with celebrities, maybe for years at this point, and obligation can certainly kill joy. When you add “networking” to the mix, it can feel a bit unbearable. Nothing kills a buzz like thinking I’m having a fun conversation then getting smacked with a fully rehearsed sales pitch. Generally, I enjoy talking to strangers and have a pretty high tolerance for an uninteresting story with too many details, but even I have my limits. You have to laugh when a simple exchange of social media accounts sends someone into a frenzy: searching their personal account, “follow,” their brand account, “follow,” their company account, “follow,” their new swimwear line account, before you snatch your phone back, never to be fooled again.
One thing I did appreciate about the boring witch of the west, Los Angeles, was that there was not a trace of hidden agenda. No couth whatsoever. Interactions were generally quick and could be boiled down to, “Are you someone? Can you help me? No? Cool.” Even as a “person in media” at an industry-driven afterparty, I never found myself stuck in a long conversation I couldn’t get out of. People in LA have to be this way, otherwise you can’t work the room before they start shutting down the party at a sobering 1 a.m. But does the absence of some sort of guise remove any trace of perverse enjoyment?
“Real” fun can, of course, be found when the stars align and you know where to find it. The most fun I had at a party this month was at the Boom Boom Room, naturally, for Heron Preston’s afterparty. It was coming off of a hot show (Heron’s first presentation in New York) and had all of the necessary components: an open bar with 1942 tequila, a windowed area to smoke cigs, and great music the whole night. Angel Estrella kicked it off, playing mixes of Cascade, and no one was afraid to dance. At around 1 a.m., Detroit’s own Omar S, my absolute favorite DJ, graced us and the party didn’t slow down til the end. I didn’t speak to anyone giving “too cool to be there” and there was a genuine excitement emanating through the crowd, maybe from Preston himself, who rarely left the dance floor.
I would argue that the sweet spot for beguilement is being just high enough in the chain of command to get into the party. There’s nothing like the rush of talking your way into an event you’re barely allowed to be at. That excitement alone can build a night and leave you with your sense of wonder intact. A rare gift!
Maybe everyone is having their version of fun the entire time… the way an ancient woman in a restaurant enjoys a meal by trashing the food and emotionally destroying their server. Social climbing is, like Fashion Week itself, a New York institution, and the communities who don’t embrace it leave something to be desired. If complaining about attending events establishes someone’s personal importance in whatever game they happen to be playing (standard hierarchy, sexual, etc.), then we have the choice to let it ruin our fun or join in on the diversion. Whatever your indulgence, do it for the love of the game.