Why people hold costume parties (and why those same people rule the world)

Walk into a costume party, and I guarantee you will see all three of the following costume party tropes, almost immediately.

Trope one is ‘all out guy’. Someone who has gone all out, then kept going so they’re orbiting ‘all out’ from beyond the stratosphere. Except the orbit analogy fails, because unlike a satellite, this person is very eager for you to detect their presence. You’ll recognise them, because they’re probably wearing a wacky wig and clothing that emphasises their nether regions (whether by clinging tightly or simply exposing). All out guy is usually a cis male, but their gender doesn’t matter much. I’m not going to be talking to them either way.

Trope two is subversive guy. Subversive guy has made no effort whatsoever, and wants that fact to be noticed. They might be wearing something quite a bit more normal than they ordinarily would, just to drive the point home. They’re saying ‘I am subverting the norm by being the normal norm’. Subversive guy is not me. Making no effort is liable to attract as much attention as making too much effort. Because I don’t have the courage to subvert anything, I always wear something at least hinting at the party’s theme. Subversive guy is making a statement. I don’t know what that statement is, and I will never find out, because i’m not going to be talking to them either way.

Trope three is the sexy host. The person who invited you, or gave a plus one to the person who invited you, has the sexiest costume in the room. And so they should. While all the plus ones in the room have had 8 hours to prepare, the party host has been Pinteresting costume concepts for months. And you know what? I respect that. If you look sexy as a sexy nurse, engineer a situation in which you can legitimately make that happen.

All three tropes have something in common. They’re inhabited by extraverts, a term which I think comes from the latin meaning ‘people who are so excruciatingly excitable and socially able that they feel they must lord it over the people who just want to be left alone’.

For me, none of this is hypothetical. A costume party, while a terrifying and frankly unnecessary reality we all must endure, is exactly where i’m writing these words.

When I tell you I’m writing on my phone at a costume party, you’ll gain the understanding that I’m not an extravert. In the modern lexicon circa 2023, or probably earlier and I haven’t caught up with the shifting trends, people even shorten the word to ‘extra’. Ironic, in a way, because I do tend to feel like an extra on a film shoot at parties. I just wish someone would give me some specific direction about what I’m supposed to be doing. Standing behind the main characters mouthing ‘rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb’ feels odd after a while (also before a while).

The theme for this evening is ‘disco/glam’. It’s generous of the host to give us a slash theme, because our ability as guests to interpret generously to suit or body types, wardrobes, and levels of self esteem is maximised.

As I write, i’m wedged into a pleather booth a few metres from the dance floor, so as I tap these words laser lights are pinging off of my skin. The dance floor is populated by people in sequined outfits, circling a featured dancer, which appears to be a rotating role. I’m pleased to report that all three tropes are represented.

Another guest approaches me, a blue cocktail in his hand.

‘You look amazing’, he says.

‘These are my clothes’, I say, before realising that’s a really strange thing to say to someone.

The laser lights refract through the guest’s cocktail glass as he backs away from me.

As is my habit with things that make me incredibly anxious, like costume parties, my costume planning was a last minute affair (which lends it an unwarranted air of romance). Planning my costume under severe time pressure is a measure that ensures not only is my night an anxious blur, my day has passed under a haze of worry too.

I took in all of my local op shops in my attempt to prepare for this evening, and though I tried on almost everything in the faux fur section (not having located a single sequined item), I returned home empty handed. Untrue. I bought some cheap sunglasses, and when the lasers sniff me out some effect of the coloured light penetrating the lenses makes me quite nauseous.

Across the dancefloor the DJ, enraptured by his own choice of music, hula dances in slow motion, cleverly contradicting the rhythm and tempo of the song.

I realise I haven’t spoken in a while, in large part because i’m tall and the words of the other party goers are absorbed by my chest. Unable to hear anyone else’s words, I say some myself.

‘So this is the song Chet Faker was quoting from when he said no diggety you got to bag it up!’

Someone else’s plus one looks up at me. ‘What?’

‘You know? Chet Faker sings that line. No diggety. That must be…’

I trail off as I watch the plus one’s face lose any sense of an emotional expression. This is what it looks like when someone is nonplussed. And I realise that people don’t come to parties and listen to the music. They just move to it. Lyrical interpretation and interpolation are basically not invited to party chit-chat.

This is when it’s brought home to me that this is not the time or place for me. You know how people say things like ‘i’m most at home when i’m in the courtroom (or swimming laps, or dancing in a neon forest)’? Well, i’m most at home when i’m at home.

One of the many disadvantages to being an introvert is that you often don’t realise that’s what you are until you’ve pretended you’re not one for three solid decades. My journey to recognising my own identity as an ‘intro’ (which I don’t think anyone says, in 2023 or otherwise) really started when my kids arrived. Some new parents are desperate to get out into the world the second the baby pops out; to dinners and parties and sporting events. But having kids showed me how much more calm and happy I feel when i’m doing none of those things.

That’s what i’m thinking of as the last refrains of No Diggety are cross-faded into Daft Punk. Extraverts rule the world. Which is why when they tell us what to wear, we comply. When they tell us what music to like, and how to dance to it, and whether to dance to it, we comply.

Maybe the extraverts are the presidents and the commissioners and the czars? Maybe extraverts rule the world, and fix the rules so that they always will. Maybe the first extravert emerged from a cave and started strutting around, which somehow landed them the job as cave boss, and from then on the descendents of extravert number one have ruled over the cave dwelling under classes. (It bears mentioning that while we’re still in the cave, we’ve honed our craft as artists to a pretty significant extent, so it’s not all roses for our strutting ancestors).

These questions are clearly too lofty to be answered by someone without qualification, at a disco in a pub basement.

But as a matter of personal experience, I really do think that most everything in this world is designed to grant success to extraverts. Whether it’s work, socialising, or play. It’s all better if you’re someone who really wants to be around other people. Even social media, which is premised on its members not being physically proximate, works best for those willing to put themselves out there and share their lives with others.

I realise i’m still in a (somewhat stilted) conversation. The plus one turns to me, clearly aware he hasn’t talked in a little while either.

‘Have you ever been in a floatation tank?’, he asks.

It’s quite a bit more of a non sequitur than my lyrical observation, but I let that slide.

‘I never have’, I say.

And we have a real, grown up conversation about how he loves them and thinks they’re wonderfully relaxing, whereas I can’t imagine lying in a coffin of salty water that I can be pretty certain contains other people’s bodily fluids.

At one point I feel bad about critiquing his new hobby so harshly, so I offer an olive branch.

‘Although I guess it’s no different to swimming in the ocean. Except the ocean is … bigger.’

And the significance of my words, while lost on the plus one, rises before me like the hands of the DJ, now sanctified by his own button pressing.

Maybe the world isn’t just made for extraverts. Maybe the world is made for introverts, too. Maybe there are things introverts dominate at, and extraverts just can’t handle. Being in a floatation tank, for example would be perfect for introverts (who are OK soaking in the salty secretions of countless others… even tuna gets its own brine). Swimming in the sea: also great for introverts. It’s so big, there’s room for everyone to be really far away from each other!

The list of things introverts do well is almost endless, which is pointless, because no self respecting introvert will dare go out there and try all of the things.

There’s power in not wanting to talk to anyone. Only in a higher state of being can one re-watch Friday Night Lights every 6 months. There’s comfort in headphones. There’s beauty in seeing the world through windows.

So have I made peace with my hang ups around extraverts, and the power they have over me and my kind? No. And I never will. But they won’t know how i’m feeling about it my oppression, because instead of smiling and talking and telling someone about it, i’m in a booth by a disco dance floor, typing on my phone while a party takes place. And if i’m still enough, the party might just forget i’m here.

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