Hostesses need not worry about small talk at parties these days with such an historically significant election at hand.
Even when the guest list is all kinds of diverse, pulling from friends, family, work connections and associated tangents, you can bet the farm that once mingling begins, straight talk about our next President is going to come up.
I drove to Church Hill listening to a dire weather warning about impending torrential rain - complete with buzzing - to reach a friend's surprise birthday party. Some friends you'd drive through torrents for, in this case, for the kind of introverted person who became a friend practically from the first time we began a conversation six years ago.
Every time I met someone new tonight who asked about my connection to the birthday celebrant, I had an array of anecdotes about our relationship to share. My favorite, of course, is about how I helped him get the girl, the girl.
Despite my early sagacious advice, he's the one who's been thoughtful and romantic enough to keep her.
That the party had been planned as a potluck ensured obscene amounts of food, including what one friend had warned us would be "mediocre wings," when actually it was wings from Bonchon Chicken that made fans of nearly everyone.
But not for us any nibbling until we'd donned party hats (blue, worn at a jaunty angle), grabbed noisemakers (green, required I was told) and scared the birthday boy half to death when he unlocked the front door, expecting to walk into a romantic birthday dinner chez his main squeeze and instead finding the most eclectic group of people he knows ever assembled.
I can't attest to where the conversation went in other nooks and crannies of the house, but there was some fiery rhetoric going on in the narrowest part of the kitchen near the refrigerator where I found myself.
Not going to lie, it brings up many feelings to hear people talk about being part of the groundswell that wants to commit to each changing just one person's mind about voting for Trump. Didn't childhood literature teach us that slow and steady wins the race?
"If each of us convinced just one Trump-supporter to change his vote, it would make a difference in the election," said one of the two men who'd gotten the "wear peach shirt" memo. His passion was palpable, even if his clothing choice was matchy-matchy.
Truthfully, I can only mock so much because I was one of three women who wore a summer outfit with a cut-out back, so apparently there were different memos for each sex, fortunate for me since I look dreadful in peach.
More than one person admitted that they would begin at the source by trying to change their parents' minds about Trump.
"We need to start by asking these people what they like about him," a friend insisted. "We have to understand where they're coming from to address their misconceptions."
And sometimes, you can't even try. One guy shared that after trying to talk rationally with Trump types, he'd complained to a friend that people like that were hopeless causes. "Don't talk to me about Trump supporters," the friend told him. "I'm behind enemy lines."
He lives in Colonial Heights.
It's satisfying to see how engaged people are in this election cycle, comparing speeches, giving massive props to Biden's, trying to figure out how 2020-related Romney's was, praising Obama's (about whose speech my own Dad had written "[it] exceeded anything sine William Jennings Bryan"), allowing for the significance of Bloomburg's and most definitely still over the moon about Michelle's, all of us convinced that she'd clean up should she run in 2020.
People are scared at the possibility of a Trump presidency and a birthday party of familiar faces seems to be a good place to admit that you're already preparing yourself for the worst possible eventuality.
One woman said she'd recently been part of a bachelorette party that made a stop at Trump Winery, which made her exceedingly uncomfortable. Her mother insisted she keep her feelings to herself and all she could think about was, why throw hard-earned cash at the business of a man whose platform terrifies you?
I feel completely comfortable invoking MLK at this point: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Ahem, the foreseeable future matters hugely, even to a well-aged vintage such as myself.
When the discussion veered to lighter topics, it was far funnier, as when a woman shared her experience visiting a European market that used a remarkable customer reward system.
She and her husband had ordered, and while she was hoovering hers, he was less impressed with his, basically pushing the food around on his plate.
The owner's wife took note, praising her and chiding him, and then delivering 3 or 4 desserts for her with explicit instructions not to share with him.
Odd as that sounds, it gets odder.
After setting down the desserts, the owner's wife moved behind her and - wait for it - began massaging the woman's shoulders while her husband nibbled on the verboten desserts. I'm not sure how it could have gotten much weirder unless they'd initiated a threesome right there on the table.
"I'm telling you about it so maybe you'll want to go check it out for yourself and write about it," she tells me at the conclusion of her story. Are you kidding? Who wouldn't want free desserts and a back rub from a stranger?
A service industry friend chimes in. "Gee, I wish I'd known to try that move before I left my last position."
I heard from another friend who's been training to be a yogi about the challenges of closing down her busy mind to meditate. "I didn't know how to turn off the 17 voices in my head and just be present in the moment," she explained about her first attempt at meditation.
Next thing you know, we're discussing science and why people react to the power of thunderstorms in the same manner they react to being near the ocean or running water: positive ions are released with all three and humans can't help but react to them.
But ultimately, the chatter always returned to the journey from now 'till November, with one young voter admitting that, "Part of me believes that we can really make change this time and the other half says, nah, they're just trying to pull one over on us again."
We can not risk being cynical, kids.
Another admitted he hadn't voted in the last couple of elections and while all I did was gasp in surprise, another friend extended his hand to democracy's non-participant, saying, "Nice knowing you."
Although he's got all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, his point was simply that when you don't vote, it's not rebellion, it's surrender.
It's good to know that I count as friends so many people who refuse to just roll over. Sometimes it takes a birthday party to remind you that we're as great as the people who participate.