One hundred people are invited to a party, and each is asked to RSVP. Each invitee is permitted to invite five friends, who are also asked to RSVP. (These friends are not allowed to invite friends of their own.)
Of the eventual attendees, three-quarters will attend as couples; and of these, two-thirds will have RSVPed. The remaining quarter of the attendees will attend alone, and of these, one-half will have RSVPed.
For every attendee there will be another attendee who has the same first name. If, for example, Mary Johnson attends the party, then at least one other Mary will be attending the party as well. Also, for every attendee with a surname that is also a common first name, someone with that first name will be at the party. So if John Patrick is at the party, then someone named Patrick — Patrick Smith, say — will be there too.
Of the attendees, three-quarters will have graduated from prestigious four-year colleges or universities; the other one-quarter will have attended two-year community colleges. For the three-quarters the presence of the one-quarter will be, for want of a better word, delicious. (At an earlier such party, a Bennington alumna was intrigued to discover that the handsome young schoolteacher with whom she was chatting had recently graduated from Laramie County College (Wy.). She will be coming to the party again.)
The world’s three major presumed racial groupings — Mongoloid, Negroid, Caucasoid — will each be represented at the party. Attendees willing to make nametags for their grouping should indicate this when they RSVP.
All of your ex-girlfriends will be at the party. (Many will wonder how this is possible. “I have dated 50 women,” one reader e-mailed. “They are scattered throughout the Americas, as well as Europe and Asia. I believe two to be dead. Could it be that they will all be at the party?” The answer is: yes. They will all be at the party.)
Employees of think-tanks will be disproportionately represented at the party, numbering one guest in twenty. These individuals are smart and well-read, and their research has been exhaustive, but remember that their conclusions are ideologically motivated.
If one member of a “school” is at the party, then the school’s other members will be there as well. If Max Horkheimer is at the karaoke machine, then Herbert Marcuse is likely rounding the corner with a mai tai. If an attendee should happen to spot Thomas Cole, the 19th-century landscape painter, then by necessity Asher B. Durand is somewhere in the apartment as well. Or he’s on the way, or has already left. (Note: The members of each school will not necessarily arrive or leave together.)
(Also: note that not every notable attendee is part of a school. When, for example, you see Lewis Grizzard at the party — he will be there — don’t jump to the conclusion that Roy Blount, Jr. will be in attendance as well. The comic minds of the American South have influenced each other strongly, but they do not yet constitute a “school.”)
One-quarter of the attendees will encounter someone whom they know but did not expect to see at the party. “What are you doing at this party?” one will ask the other. “I might ask you the same question,” the other will respond, and the two will share a laugh. But beneath the laugh there will be, for each, a deadly seriousness; each had come to the party hoping to start anew.
For each attendee there will be another attendee on whom, over the course of the evening, their glance will tend to linger. One man may notice a woman who is the spitting image of his recently deceased aunt; another may marvel at the creamy skin of a toddler; another still might be moved with pity at the sight of a half-wit, or amputee.
Two-thirds of the attendees will have nemeses, also in attendance. The nature of their conflict will vary from pairing to pairing. Two might be vying for the same love object; another two, the same promotion. But for all the conflict will be primary — indeed, mortal; or as close as we come in this day and age, at any rate.
The number of people at the party cannot exceed one hundred at any point in time, as per local fire codes. Guests who arrive after one hundred attendees are already inside will be asked to wait outside, by the door.
The number of guests waiting outside may not exceed fifty, however, and so guests who arrive after fifty hopefuls are already waiting will be asked to stay in their cars with the engines running.
These guests will be asked to rev their engines every thirty seconds to indicate their continuing desire to attend the party.
I hope you all can make it.