Boo and I went to his coworker’s birthday party last night. From the way the invite sounded, I thought it was going to be a big party with lots of people to mingle with, and so I wasn’t worried about it. That’s an environment I can handle fairly well. But as soon as he told me it was going to be “a pretty intimate house party type deal,” I started to get nervous. I can count on probably one hand the number of times I’ve been to a house party thrown by a Black person, and the only time they’ve been intimate types of ordeals is when the host has been a friend of mine for years and years.
It had been described as a 90s party and guests were encouraged to dress up. He and I busted out our baggiest jeans and tried to play into 90s style as much as we could, and I felt really self-conscious about my outfit, but I was telling myself it would be okay because everyone else was gonna be dressed up too. But nope. Literally one other person really went for the 90s look, and we’d been there for at least 2 hours before she showed up. *cue starting to feel out of place *
We started off playing a game where a post-it note with the name of a Black figure who was popular in the 90s was put on our backs and we had to try to guess who we were using only yes or no questions. As soon as mine was put on my back, boo laughed and said I was never going to guess it. He was right. I was the last person standing. Everyone tried to give me lots of hints — I knew that my person was a female basketball player and the first woman to dunk. But I don’t think I can name a single female basketball player outside of Britney Griner. And I told everyone that. The host eventually took pity on me and swapped me out. I had been Lisa Lesley apparently. My next post-it note was Peppa from Salt n Peppa and I got that fairly quickly with help from people; it was funny because a Salt n Peppa song was literally playing in the background when I was guessing.
After I guessed that, we switched to playing a game where we had to name the artist who sings the song being played as soon as possible after the host put it on. Boo was killin the game. Music is soooooo his thing. Hip-hop is not my thing, and old school hip-hop from the early 90s is particularly not my thing. I’d never heard half of the songs and often hadn’t ever heard of the artist either. There was one other girl who didn’t grow up listening to Black music either, so I felt some solidarity with her. Our host took pity on us towards the end (are you noticing a theme here?) and played some, like, Goo Goo Dolls and No Doubt and Matchbox 20 for us to guess. I got the Goo Goo Dolls song before the words even started and boo was like, shocked, haha.
But I guess people really liked the “guess who you are” game because we somehow started playing it again and kept it up for the rest of the night, though we changed it a little bit to be that one person stood in the center of the room with a person in mind and everyone else asked them questions to try to figure out who they were. Shots were involved at varying points if you asked too many questions or got wrong answers — at one point boo was supposed to take a shot and I took it for him cuz he’s a lightweight and he called me “my heart” and it was adorable. But anyway, it was hours and hours of like, nonstop Black popular culture trivia — first just from the 90s, then from any time frame. Everyone was sitting around in a circle just playing this game. When I heard there were gonna be games, I imagined like, Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples or something — I was in no way prepared for what actually went down.
I was sort of holding my own for a little while — I guessed that someone was Tina Turner, and that another person was Bill Cosby. When you guessed the person right, you were supposed to go up to the front and have everyone try to guess who you were. But I did not want to stand in the middle of this room in my outfit — I basically looked like the guy from that meme with the black turtleneck and baggy light jeans and belt and chain, except I didn’t have a chain — and I wasn’t sure my knowledge of any Black celebrity or character was encyclopedic enough to withstand the group’s battery of questions, so I always passed my turn and gave it to other people.
Then there came a person whose turned lasted for what felt like an hour. Everyone was really really confused. Eventually the host took herself out of the game so she could see who it was and try to help the group guess. She pointed to all of the men in the room (except boo, as she later explained because she has this idea of him as too innocent to know who this person was) and said that they would know her, which convinced people that it was some stripper or porn star. It was revealed to be some porn star, that everyone in the room but me had heard of and either found funny or found it funny that that was who they’d all been struggling to guess for so long. I don’t know. But I’d never heard of this person, and everyone else was laughing uproariously, and I felt like I wanted a magical hole to open up underneath my seat and just swallow me. I wasn’t in on the joke.
I said that I didn’t know who this person was, and someone said something to the effect of, “You know, from Worldstarhiphop?”. I told them that I’ve never been to that site. This caused general reactions of incredulity. I was told that I’m missing out. I responded that it’s a thing my 19 year old little brother is into, so by definition not a thing I’m about.
I had been fairly tipsy and in a good mood, but that whole situation literally killed my buzz. After that I didn’t get any answers for a while — the hint or question that was supposed to give the answer away kept being something I didn’t know about the person. I didn’t know one of the Williams sisters has a chronic disease, for example. I can’t recall any of the others, but each one kept piling up to paint, for me, a picture of a whole world I’m not plugged into. I think that the only two I got for the rest of the night were both boo’s. He was The Rock and then he was Gerald from Hey Arnold. He commented on me getting both of his, and I told him “I may not know Black pop culture, but I know you.” This game was draining. I felt like I was being put to the test and not doing very well. I hate this phrase, but I didn’t feel like I was Black enough for this game or this party. I wanted to be the fun girlfriend that gets along with all of his coworkers and blends seamlessly into the group, but by the end of the night I definitely felt like the stereotypical annoyed girlfriend who just wants to go home while her boyfriend is having fun.
And he was having fun. He was having such a good time and I was happy about that because he’d been nervous about this party too, and generally gets nervous about interacting socially with the people he works with, and I felt like I was fucking that up and I didn’t want to do that. I wished that I could just go home and leave him there having fun. But we were an hour away from his apartment and needed a ride to the metro, so that wasn’t a possibility. There were no other conversations going on for me to join, no way to do anything but try to play along with this game and gchat BD on my phone to tell her about the situation. Everyone was in on the fun but me.
Being in situations that highlight just how different he and I are, in our backgrounds and our interests or whatever, is hard for me sometimes. It makes me feel like we don’t make sense as a unit, like we’re a round hole and a square peg. Encyclopedic knowledge of Blackness is a thing he strives towards, so this was a great environment for him. But like, hip-hop culture and celebrity culture are both not things I’m about. Most of the time the topic being discussed on Black Twitter today is some shit I’ve never heard of and don’t really care to know about. This is not the person that I am, and I just wanted to get the fuck out of there before I embarrassed myself further.
This manifested itself when he tried to put his head on my shoulder and I pulled away. I wasn’t upset with him at all — I was just trying to hold my shit together and not look as miserable or as bored as I felt, and cuddles do not contribute to keeping my game face on. He and I barely spoke for the rest of the night until we got home at like 2am and he thought I was angry with him and I was just upset about everything and I cried at him and I’ve been doing that very often recently and just, blahhhhh.