September, sometime in the mid-to-late noughties. The exact evening no doubt fell towards the end of that month, as that’s around the time of my date of birth, but the exact year is more difficult to pin down – a common anomaly when you attempt to squeegee a stubborn, harrowing memory from your rear windscreen.
Why stubborn and harrowing, I don’t hear you ask? Well, if you actually turned up to this particular costume party/cared to celebrate my ongoing existence, you would know why. But you didn’t. You didn’t come and you most likely didn’t let me know whether or not you planned to.
I won’t hold it against you or anyone else absent on that abnormally yet fittingly chilly spring evening. Instead, I’m here to explain how to ensure this never, ever happens to you.
Don’t think you’re above the RSVP
As I can’t recall the exact year of the disaster, I also can’t remember whether Facebook was being used as an event management tool yet. Either way, the guest list was invited through a lazy group email which requested they inform anyone I may have missed, and which failed to stipulate any RSVP terms and conditions.
I may have invited over 60 people, but once the initial message was sent out, I put it out of my mind and just assumed my birthday had been added to their calendar in bright red and encircled in little illustrations of smiling balloons. Such hubris.
Don’t do the premature e-invitation
One thing I do remember is that I sent out the initial (and only) invite quite a number of weeks prior to the actual event, and have since learned that there’s a sweet spot in the timeline so as not to leave too much or too little a gap between invitation and celebration.
Of course, now the majority of soirees are planned through Facebook, you’re reminded of upcoming events seven thousand times a week, but in this case I’d left people with way too much leeway to forget about the event and, hence, me.
Can you hear that violin playing the theme from Schindler’s List?
Don’t be born in September
After the premature invitation, I probably received about 15 replies from closer friends, most claiming they’d turn up. But as time went on and the fact that my birthday takes place in that annual dead zone during which people tend to schedule holidays, more and more last-minute apologies and cancellations turned up in one of my inboxes.
Even though the guaranteed guest list was dwindling, I maintained that I’d invited enough people to guarantee a hefty crowd. More hubris.
Don’t do any of the above, especially if you’re having a fancy-dress party
A regular house party that suffers the blow of meagre attendance can quickly recover and blossom into a memorable gathering. A bit of self-deprecation goes a long way, and after a few consoling laughs and a bit of ball-breaking, the positives emerge – everyone gets a seat, there’s more food and booze to go around, and you’re all able to engage in a single, audible conversation.
A fancy-dress party is a different animal... in an animal suit. The time, thought and effort guests invest in their costumes are instantly apparent, so when only four people show up, so too is the failure. You can’t escape the fact that five people dressed as iconic film characters are sitting in a circle, and it’s a truth that leaves everyone less concerned with revelling and more with checking the gap underneath the front door for any signs of new feet.
The final scene, looking like a quick pre-drink before heading to Comic-Con:
Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction (me).
Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump.
Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
Angelina Jolie’s character from Hackers.
Chunk from The Goonies.
Fortunately, if any photos were taken, they have been destroyed. Though, here is a GIF artist’s impression of my experience:
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