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The Art of the Attendee: A Delicate Balance

David Coggins considers the highs and lows of party-going

Party Etiquette IllustrationA good host prepares for a party with foresight, generosity and an appreciation for mischief. Once the festivities are under way, however, the guests must shine if the evening is to be a triumph.

Here are a few considerations to help you secure your position as a return invitee.

-Bring something that’s genuinely welcome. 
You want your host to plan, you should too. Good wine is appreciated, but a magnum of good wine is more appreciated. Your gift will literally tower above the rest of the offerings. Ignore any sharp glances from people who brought lukewarm beer from the deli.

-Speak to a few strangers, and be charitable. 
Don’t take your drink straight to the corner and make withering assessments of other guests’ sartorial strategies. Circulate, you make the hosts job easier, and you can save your postgame analysis to the following day.

-Don’t hijack the playlist. 
It’s true your taste in music is flawless, but don’t override your host’s devotion to the Smiths with your fixation on the latest underground acid jazz act from Amsterdam. And please do not take it upon yourself to start a dance party.

-Do not lurk where the food appears. 
There is a subset of guests—you know who you are—who strategically station themselves for maximum dining efficiency. They establish base camp near the kitchen or wherever servers appear, and defend their area with the ferocity of a mother bear. You can’t get a canapé past them. Rightly frowned upon since the dawn of social civilization.

-If you’re there at the end, offer to help.
The art of the departure is a tricky one. You don’t want to be scavenging around empty bottles for the last dregs of wine. If you are having such a good time that you discover you are the last one standing at 3am, offer to clean up. It’s a good deed and a classy parting gift. Then, when you pass out in the cab home, your conscience will be clear.

David Coggins considers the art of party attendance