Virtual Cocktail Parties And 'Girls' Nights In' Are Saving My Sanity

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Virtual Cocktail Parties And 'Girls' Nights In' Are Saving My Sanity
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One night, someone, and I’m blaming E. here (initials will be used to protect the less-than-innocent), proclaimed that all of us were going to FaceTime and drink. Didn’t matter what we drank. We just had to drink. She posted this proclamation in our rolling writers’ chat Don’t Stand So Close To Me (we like to think we’re clever, we writers).

About nine of us showed up on a rolling basis from all across the country. Some, like S., didn’t stay long — he was cooking dinner. Others, like E. and I, stayed for most of the conversation. This virtual cocktail party was so much fun that we’ve done it again, and again, and again, and used this article as an excuse to have another. Research, right?

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It’s become a lifeline in the middle of COVID-19 virus.

We didn’t know each other really, really well, though some of us had met at conferences, so we dressed up, COVID-19 style. I’d like to say we wore fancy prom attire. Um, no. Pandemic, dude. We’ve worked our way down to COVID-19 standards. Everyone had on real clothes. Everyone wore a bra. Yoga pants were involved in some cases, but they were pants. Everyone who drinks also showed up with a different kind of liquor. E. mixed something complicated. I drank sweet tea vodka. Some women had wine. Someone had Moscato. Some had water or juice or coffee because — as your mother always told you — you don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

At this virtual cocktail party, like the ones after it, we laughed. We got to know each other better. We said totally off-color things and talked about penises, because any good cocktail party involves talking about penises. The only difference from real life? No one went to the bathroom in droves, no one fell drunkenly laughing on anyone else, no one needed a designated driver, and everyone held a phone.

I Needed This

So why did I hop on a virtual chat with a bunch of relative strangers? Because I needed it. COVID-19 has forced us all into isolation. Not only do we miss Target, and Starbucks, and restaurants and going to the grocery store without suiting up like we’re entering a level 5 CDC hot zone, we miss friends. We miss the belly-shaking, doubling-over laughter. We miss the late-night confessions. We miss the stories that veer off the rails, and yet seem to weave seamlessly into the next story.

At a virtual party, we can’t tramp to the bathroom en masse to fix our makeup. (Well, we could, but what’s the point?). But we can have everything else, as long as we can hold up a phone.

We talk about everything from discovering bisexuality late in life, to That Time I Almost Hooked Up With That Guy Who May Or May Not Have Been Bruce Campbell At DragonCon, to genitals in general. And it seems that the longer the party goes on, the more serious the conversation becomes.

A Virtual Cocktail Party is For Unburdening

When you’re sure your kids and spouse aren’t listening in, you’ll confess things you’d never say otherwise: a truism of girl talk.

I’ll not out our stories. Those are for us and us alone, and they remain safe in the bright circle of our liquor and late nights. But after we get some wine/liquor/mixed drinks/Moscato in us, the truth comes out: the truth that hurts, the truth that haunts, the truth that begs for sharing with someone, with anyone. We talk about it all, and in that unburdening, the kind of unburdening that comes in the late night quiet with friends, we find a peace we haven’t had since COVID-19 began.

Or at least I do.

That virtual cocktail party isn’t just for amusement. It isn’t just for shits and giggles over which ’90s song we banged to. It slowly changes, shifts, becomes something other than jokes. It becomes authentic connection between women in desperate need. Everybody’s heard the old slogan, “Reach out and touch someone.” A virtual party becomes a way to reach out, and for a brief moment, touch something other than the panic, the worry, the anxiety attacks and the fear.

They’re Easy to Organize, Easy to Have, And Easy to Clean Up

A real cocktail party needs invitations, babysitters, dressing up, finger foods, designated drivers, and a stocked bar. You have to stand around and talk to strangers, which for many of us means lurking in corners and wishing we were anywhere else. A virtual cocktail party eliminates all of those barriers. You throw them after the kids go to bed. You throw them in your living room, in a T-shirt and jeans. You only need one bottle — your own. Finger food is optional and probably obnoxious, so we don’t bother.

We generally shut the door so partners don’t hear our salacious tales of yesteryear.

Our invitations? A shout-out in Don’t Stand So Close to Me: I’m drinking tonight. Who wants to join? And sometimes it’s nine people and sometimes it’s two. And E. and I have had some awesome two-people get-togethers.

To clean up, you say good-bye and turn off your phone.

Boom. Done. You get your girls, you get your beverage of choice — alcoholic or otherwise — and you get your phone.

And then, you get your sanity back.

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