Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fashionista 103 - The Social Butterfly

There's no stopping an idea whose time has come. Once upon a time, establishing friendship took a long circuitous route and carried a long affair with having to size up the next persons likes and dislikes before we called him/her a friend.

The era of social networking has allowed us to come face-to-face with the fact that friends are but a "return" key away and whether he/she is a sociopath or just a lost bored soul searching for some fun, "friendship" has apparently taken a different twist in the age of technology.

Socializing is the pinnacle of establishing relations - from the boardroom to the bedroom. So now you've found a circle of friends whom you enjoy some "likes" with, you bring the new found relation from a simple chat online, to a casual meeting for a cup of coffee or a drink or two, to some intimate gatherings and finally to the BFF (best friend forever) level.

Interestingly is how social graces at a gathering or party divulge the kind of person (and the breeding) we impress upon.

So here's a few tips on partying with friends, acquaintances, and the corporate people:

1. It's a party!
When you're invited to a party, know what the occasion is and dress appropriately for it. Don't go looking shabby where your nanny stands out more than you, making you look like the nanny's help. Is it a formal or informal one? Never ever wear jeans and t-shirts to a formal event. The waiters may look like your boss. Even if you drive to the event in a Porsche or Jaguar, the clothes on your back is a reflection on who you are.

As Filipino as it gets, never bring uninvited guests to the party unless the invite says so. Which means that you check your invite and find out if the name embossed there says that you can bring your whole family or your partner along. If the invitation etches only your name, it means you come alone and not bring the whole barangay to the event. It's also a good reminder that once you get an invitation and it says RSVP (répondez s'il vous plaît), meaning please respond or reply - make that call to the inviter on whether you intend to come or not. It's simple courtesy. And it's improper to ask if you can bring along a partner or your household if the name on the invite just says YOU! One thing I cannot stand are people whom you invite and come with a hoard of hungry lackeys! Remember, the reason your name is the only one there means that the event is a highly intimate and personal one and that other guests may not know whom you're bringing or feel that it is inappropriate to bring a kid or a maid or your dog to the event. In addition, take into consideration that the inviter may have budget constraints on the event and that he/she is doing a head count. It may be a P4000/head affair, so be considerate.

If it's a pot luck party, do not scrimp by bringing only cheap dessert or ice cream. It is fair game that you ask all the other invitees what the budget of the party is. If the minimum cost is P1000 for the 10 people invited, make sure that even if you volunteered to just bring the wine, it's not Novellino or Carlo Rossi. Get one priced the same as what the other invitees will contribute. Cheapskates will never be invited to another party ever again. Besides, everyone will be talking behind your back on how a heel you were.

If the party requires a gift, how much worth of gift should you bring? I often get asked this question and I have a simple rule of thumb. It depends on the event. For example, if the event is a wedding and you happen to be a guest where the reception will be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula with the guest list being part of the who's who in Philippine society, expect that the food plated would cost around P3000/head at the minimum. That's how much the gift should cost. If you're two people going (husband and wife are invited), the minimum gift you should bring should cost P6000. If you're going to a baptism where the reception will be held at Jollibee, the gift you bring should cost no more than P200 if you're going alone. If your whole family is invited, (and you happen to bring your husband, your 4 kids and 3 nannies), the total gift to the celebrant should be P1800. And do not attempt to drag something out of your closet and wrap them only to get free chow. It's so untasteful and disgusting. One time I got a gift that had the name of another person engraved in the pen! Ewwww...she was stricken off my guest list...for life! And NO, the cliche of "it's the thought that counts" does not apply to parties where a gift is mandatory.

Do you come in early or late? Like many parties, there are guests that arrive really early. The early birds are usually seen in wedding receptions. Most of the guests don't go to the wedding ceremonies but pop up in the ballroom. That's fine. Another rule of thumb: If you have no plans of going to the wedding proper, it is good courtesy that you don't appear in the reception much much earlier than the bride and groom entourage. Mga patay-gutom lang ang ganito! If you get to the reception earlier than the entourage, roam around somewhere nearby and wait for the bridal car to arrive before appearing. Otherwise, you'd look like paupers begging for scraps. Then there are people that like a dramatic entrance. Again, when the event is a formal event that requires you to be there at 7pm, come at 7pm and not Filipino time where the guests come prancing in at 9pm. You're too early for the next wedding reception! Remember: you're a guest here and it would be rude to make yourself the star of the event. You play a supporting role to the party, so be considerate and display proper decorum not only in what you wear to the event but in how and when you arrive. Even if you think you are Diva, you don't have to act like one. Divas in formal events stick out like a sore thumb. Then, there are parties that are highly informal - like birthday parties in the homes or soirees in the yard or just a night of unwinding in the garden. When the celebrant says that the party starts are 4ish and should go up to midnight, it means that you can drop in anytime as it's an event that will most probably have food flowing from dusk to dawn. And because the guest will be arriving and leaving at any point in time, a casual wear is most appropriate. Do not come looking like Prince Charles or the Queen of England to the latter type of event, unless you want to be mistaken for the security guard of the village.

Finally, what's the best gift to bring to a party? A good mood. If you happen to be having the worst day of your life that day, leave the bad mood at home or better yet, call the host and beg off from the party. He/she will understand. There's no reason why you will need to make other people miserable just because you think "misery loves company". It's a party. Enjoy yourself and the company of friends and make new friends. Dance. Flirt. Laugh. And do not discuss business just because you're a screwball gone ballistics trying to close in on a deal by attempting to sell houses, jewelry, cars, gadgets, kakanin, children's toys, or your business in the party! People came here to let their hair down and enjoy the day. Don't spoil it by introducing your business here and harassing the guests! I get enough of that in the malls every day.

2. Party size.
I am often asked, "what's a good party size" or "how many guests should I invite"? That depends on the party. A rule of thumb is when you just plan to have a few friends over for dinner and drinks, a light chat, a good laugh and some intimate conversation, 6-8 people is a good crowd. It leaves room for a great exchange in conversation and some parlor games to unwind to. It's a good reminder that guests should interact with each other. If you will need to invite 12-20 people, you may want to consider breaking the crowd into two batches. That way, you'd play the perfect host. Divide your set of friends into two by inviting those closely associated with one another in the first batch and then those closely knitted together in the second batch.
Remember, you don't need to get invited to every party your friends throw. I remember a colleague of mine asking me if I was invited to the wedding of the daughter of another close friend. She gasped when I said NO. I told her, "that's fine. Just because I didn't get invited doesn't mean they love me less. It just meant that I'm no in on this particular event."

3. Decorum in the party.
So there are food and drinks in a party. Which means that you don't have to pig out! Which is why I hate buffet events. Not because of the food, but because of the people without social graces. Once the host says that food's ready - boy do you see the whole caboodle get off their seats and swoop to the food station. The lechon is all bones in 30 seconds flat, the noodles have all the vegetable strands left, the tempura shrimps are all sauces left...and you see the lady in front of you grab a whole plate full of the crabs! You get what I mean don't you? When the food is served buffet style, get a little of each. Do not hog the buffet table by scooping in hoards all the oysters, prawns and caviar while talking out loudly "oh wow, this is my favorite...and this too...and wow, I love crabs..." and then teetering back to your seat with a plate as high as a pyramid because it's full of food! Ugghhh!!! Be considerate. There are other people that came to eat as well.

And if it's an open bar, it doesn't mean that you intend to get drunk in the party. The booze may be flowing, but you shouldn't be going home inebriated or dead drunk. You should know how to handle yourself if you intend to take alcohol. Getting too much drink will alter your inhibitions and you might end up spoiling other people's party just because you were drinking too much.

If you need to get a nicotine break, please do it somewhere far far away. It's unruly to be smoking inside the party place especially if it's held in a home. Courtesy dictates that if you do get the nicotine urge, take the pack of cigarettes you have outside the house (walk one block away) and fill your lungs with carbon monoxide there. You don't have to kill the guests just because you're suicidal.

4. Small talk or big talk.
One thing I cannot stand in parties is when people have nothing better to talk about, they begin to gossip. No, it's not the kind of gossip of tabloids. Like I wouldn't mind talking about a publicly relevant topic - PNoy's love life or Vicky Belo not being an accredited dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon or the RH bill's pros and cons - a healthy discussion on a relevant or irrelevant topic is fine. Two NO NOs when making conversation. Gossip and bragging.

There's always a bragger in the crowd. How much money he's made in 30 days. How expensive the new car he bought for his mistress. How much the latest LV or Hermes bag she bought at Greenbelt cost her. How pricey the latest Bulgari necklace her sugar daddy gave her. You're in for the picking for the "most likely to get mugged or kidnapped in the parking lot" award!

And the rumor mongerer. Guy, girl or gay - there's always the person whom you intend to tell a good gossip to because you know that telling that person is like broadcasting it live on DZMM. As a rule, it's never nice to gossip about friends (I think that's the same rule with your enemies). Just because they're not around does not give you permission to back-bite on them. You wouldn't like the tables turned when you're not around as well. Remember: Unless something positive and productive loosen from your lips, do not gossip unless you want to sink a ship!

5. Of friends, enemies and cliques.
I read an article that classified friends into various categories - former friends, famous friends, forgotten friend, and transgenerational friends. You end up in an event where you see friends falling in these groups. How do you associate with them?

When Jesus said that you should "love your enemies", I think what He wanted to actually say was "ignore the motherfucker". Civility is the rule and you'll need to practice the art of shunning from former friends. Don't forget - there was a reason for him to fall off your phone book contacts. Which means that all you'll need to remember is why he/she has been relegated to the category of "former".

Then there's the famous friend. These friends are like prescription drugs. They carry an expiration date. Some famous friends feel that they're the life of the party. They're the center of attention because they're famous. When the popularity has died down and he's now a has-been, they suck up to you for scraps of attention. A true friend - famous or infamous - sticks with you through thick or thin. When you see famous friend in the crowd, wave at him/her. If he/she waves back at you, you're recognized. You don't have to act like a puppy begging his/master to pet him on the head every now and then. Good boy - SIT! BEG! GROVEL! BITCH!

Now there's a face I can't put on my head. Seen him and as he approaches you with that gargantuan smile, you can't fucking remember his name!!!! He puts out his hand and shoves it into yours to greet you and pats you on the back and says your nickname out loud saying "dude, haven't seen you in ages.'re looking good man! So how's it going?" And you can't fucking remember the guy's name! Sanamagan! This frequently happens with me and when it does I just say "wow you look good too" or "wow, you've really aged and look like shit...what happened to you?". After the short chit chat, you still have no idea who he was. It's a good practice to ask a good friend, "who was that?" quietly.

I have come to a point in my life where I have a lot of transgenerational friends. These are the mentors and the mentee. We were once mentored when we were younger and beginning our practice or business. As we mature, we mentor in return. I remember my 50th birthday bash was a mixed crowd - my mentors and my mentees were there. It's a good reminder that we need to acknowledge those who've molded us to who we are today - successful in our own right. Then there are those whom we're molding to greatness as well. Life is a full circle. And this is how great companies and empires are built. Having them in the same crowd is a sign...that you've finally arrived!

It's inescapable that in an event, you'll bump into an enemy or two. Having the right enemies, however, should be the rule. It shows you have chutzpah or guts. It's a reflection on the standards you represent. But like true friends, it should be one on one and not a groupie.

Which leads to the description of a clique. It's the equivalent of the thug version called gangs. Never get involved in one. Cliques are a representation of a groupie and NOT your individual personality. If you're in a clique, get out of it before it's too late. We don't make friends with your friends. Friendship is a one-on-one affair and not a buy one take ten deal. You don't need to please the crowd. Doing so makes the friendship lopsided and stressful one.

Even in the age of technology where finding friends and liking people are but a google away, there will always be those whom we welcome into our lives not because of the fame and fortune, but the times when someone stood by you through thick and thin. There probably is a longer list of acquaintances we have today than say, a year ago. Thanks to the social network. But it does not mean that when we engage in social affairs with people, we will need to break traditional rules in dealing with them in social events.

Human nature dictates that we are all social butterflies.

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