Hostess regret and tea incident aside, Boston parties

There is a phenomenon known as "hostess regret." First, you are struck with the idea to throw a party. You're all excited, suddenly worked up. You start thinking about the menu and the people you want to invite and the people you don't want to invite but have to, out of social obligation. You think about how you need to straighten the place up a bit and maybe you'll need a new outfit for this party, because you don't throw parties so very often and then you realize that if you're going to clean the carpet, the couch is going to look shabby and if you re-cover the couch, the walls will show how dingy they are.

And now you've already sent out the invitations and spent untold dollars, it seems, on shrimp cocktail and those little meatball things and the last thing you want is for this party to happen, with your dirty walls and your cat-ruined couch, the dress you bought is still too small and the guest list is not at all what you'd envisioned.

You start to hope there will be a freak storm - something, anything -that will let you cancel the stupid party and spend the night watching television reruns in your sweatpants.

That's what it's like in Boston right now.

The Democratic National Convention is one looming party and the denizens of our town are grousing, in print, on the Web, and around the water cooler, about traffic snarls and crowd control and who wants it, anyway?

"The Democrats are coming! The Democrats are coming!" everyone is yelling, in a panic, hands flapping, slightly dazed. This convention is a hassle and a large one at that. Boston is expecting almost 5,000 delegates, numerous high-profile dignitaries and more than 10,000 members of foreign and domestic press. California alone is sending 502 delegates. That's a lot of canapés.

There will also be roughly 100,000 red, white, and blue balloons and 1,000 pounds of confetti dropped on Thursday, the closing night, and you know how it is with these huge bashes, no one ever likes to stay late and help clean up.

It's also promising to be a serious inconvenience, to say the least, to anyone trying to move in, out of, or around Boston. Roads are going to be closed for miles in every direction, bags will be checked by subway security, and bus passengers will be eyed with suspicion.

There are a number of ways in which this huge, serious party crammed into our winding, traffic-congested city was not a good idea. We are talking Serious Hostess Regret.

Still ... a party is hardly ever a success without some major effort involved.

This is Boston's first time hosting the Democratic National Convention since the practice began in Baltimore in 1832, and it very well may be our last. One hundred and seventy-two years is a long time to wait for our turn to show how gracious and patient and classy Boston can be. Yes, the subways will be clogged, inbound Storrow Drive traffic will come to a standstill, the sidewalks of tony Newbury Street will be overrun with out-of-towners in loud T-shirts, and Boston's maze of narrow one-way alleys will ensnare hundreds of rental cars.

It will be a hideous mess, and it will be glorious. It's an honor to show off our town, our manners, our Bay State.

Just as with hostess regret, there is no turning back. The invitations are out, hotels are booked, banners and signs are being printed right this moment. It's our equivalent of the day before the party, and when the party starts, we'll lower our shoulders, flip the couch cushions to the cleaner side, and enjoy our guests.

Yes, it will be madness, but it's also history in the making, something Boston knows well. We Bostonians can throw a pretty good shindig, actually, that tea incident notwithstanding.

Barbara Card Atkinson is a writer in the close-in Boston suburb of Arlington.

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