Secret Vodka Party

Like millions of other kids in high school, I wasn’t invited to the cool kid parties. Or, any party. For our senior trip, we visited a remote resort in Wisconsin. One afternoon, all my classmates ditched me (and two others) while they partied in the woods. In a class of thirty six (yes, you read that right: thirty and then six), the omission was noted.

I can’t really blame them. My dad taught English at our high school; you can’t party with a teacher’s kid.

Let’s face it. Everyone’s got a boo hoo story about high school rejection, feeling left out and vulnerable. Who knows how many of our stories are valid and reflect reality? But the painful feelings of separation and isolation were real.

Very real.

These surprisingly vigorous feelings made me apprehensive about October’s Gay Romance Literature (GayRomLit) conference. I felt excitement but also dread, like the first day of high school. I knew a handful of writers and readers from the online love we shared, but how would we manage in person when we couldn’t type the acronym ‘LOL?’

What if I showed up and nobody wanted to talk to me?

Would I eat alone in the cafeteria pretending it was exactly what I wanted?

After all, I only wrote one book. Other attending writers published dozens, have more readers, more writing skills, more marketing skills, more of everything. It’s hard not to feel a little insecure around talented people.

Nevertheless, I decided to enjoy myself and be ridiculously me, despite the teenage drama in my head. If I didn’t fit in, so be it. These days, if I am rejected I want it to be because I showed my true self. It matters now, to be my whole self as much as I can for everyone to see.

After preparing for so much rejection, imagine my freshman surprise to be wildly embraced beyond all reasonable expectations. While trying to check in at the host hotel, I ran into twelve or thirteen people I ‘knew’ online. We hugged, chatted, hugged, chatted, and they introduced me to their friends, some of whom said, “Oh sure, I’ve heard of you.”

It took me 45 minutes to check in and get upstairs.

All weekend, instead of waiting to belong, I witnessed writers and readers creating belonging. Come join us. Who are you? Sit at our table. What do you write? Who do you read?

The first conference night, despite feeling overwhelmed and shy, I joined an impromptu lobby party where I experienced iced cake vodka for the first time. These new friends showered me with questions and before long, we traded anecdotes and hilarious flirts as if this was our fourth successful date, the one where we have sex.

Hoping to return the favor later that weekend (and feeling a little guilty for gulping the last of the cake vodka), I purchased a few bottles of flavored vodka myself. Friday night, I boldly invited new friends to meet me in the lobby for a drink around 10:00 p.m. Nothing formal. No guest list. Just show up and pass the word.

A dozen people appeared at 10:00. We found an unlocked hotel ballroom to create our bar. We swilled vodka shots out of plastic cups, everyone saying, ‘Wow, this tastes exactly like cake.’ Conference friends passing by followed our laughter and poked their heads in the open door. Can we come in?

Yes. Stay. Bring your whole self.

I had a lovely conversation with someone who felt challenged by so much extroversion. We toasted with caramel vodka. I met two people I secretly admired, celebs in the GayRomLit world who happened to wander in and opted to stay. I provided lessons in how to devour a chocolate vagina pop and I’m chagrined to recall that someone in the room filmed it with their Smartphone. When I chomped off the top, women in the room screamed in empathetic agony.

Erica from Iceland approached me and shyly asked if she might go to her room and return with several bottles of her country’s liquor. She had been hoping for a secret vodka party just like this one to share with her new friends. A few moments later she returned with a bottle of Brennivin and Opal, two mysterious Icelandic treats.

While I could write paragraphs about each new friend at the Secret Vodka Party and how they blasted their unique flavor of love, I can’t do that for all. But Erica deserves  a shout out. Before the conference, she noted her local GLBT youth center lacked any current fiction, nothing new on the shelves for many years. Budgets for fiction are non-existent. She politely asked GayRoomLit authors to donate a hard copy and she would take them back to Iceland.

Seventy authors cheerfully agreed.

Erica paid for the shipping or dragged them in her luggage.

I was proud and grateful to co-host with her.

The Opal was a huge success because it tasted so awful.

Everyone who partook immediately grimaced at the taste of bitter, hard licorice and some other flavor akin to wheat. After the initial taste and involuntary reaction of saying, “OH GOD,” the taster inevitably smacked his lips together a few more times, experiencing a more pleasant sensation and then would say, “That was terrible. Pour me another shot.”

Erica laughed freely, happy to talk about home and the many uses for this strange liquor.

More people arrived and we welcomed them eagerly, found them chairs and poured them shots. We laughed about books, sex, writing habits, and people we admired sitting two chairs away. As more found their way to us, I said to my friend Anne, “How does everyone know we’re here?”

“Oh sorry,” she said cheerfully, “I tweeted that you were hosting a secret vodka party. Told everyone to come.”

Then, she resumed crocheting a penis.

About this time, one of the conference organizers pulled me out into the hallway to look me in the eye and say, “This is your party. You’re responsible for this room. You. Clean up when it’s over.”

While she is a powerful and imposing woman, I was not intimidated. No, her message was not a threat, but loving trust. “I trust you. I believe in you. Make it right.”

In that moment, I realized I could check something off my Bucket List:  host a high school party.

I can’t say I’ve spent much time fretting over high school parties I never attended.

I had friends in high school and I now understand they saw more of my true self than I imagined. Still, some days I feel I missed something important, a piece of American Life that passed me by.

As I returned to our party room, several faces sought mine to make sure things were okay. I nodded. All was well. Although not everyone I had come to love at GayRom Lit attended the Secret Vodka Party, I felt warm to experience so much rich, loving acceptance in one room. Strangers and friends laughing, drinking, sharing vulnerable stories, sharing their true selves.

I heard someone gag on Erica’s Opal drink and say, “Ugh. Awful. Pour me one more.”

In the corner, Anne smiled and crocheted a penis.




5 Responses to “Secret Vodka Party”

  1. Julianne Says:

    Good times. :) *hugs*

  2. Erica Pike Says:

    Awww, Edmond! *Hugs* You actually seemed like the type who would’ve been the life of the party back in high school. That’s how cool your true self is ^.^ So sorry to hear you were excluded like that. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the people attending GRL were probably put down in high school in one way or another. Everyone was probably equally nervous about meeting everyone at GRL and wondered how they’d be accepted. Me, I was scared as hell that no one would understand my English :P

    For what it’s worth, your party is the most memorable of all the GRL events. I had the most fun that night. We HAVE to repeat it next year. I’m gonna see how many bottles I can sneak through customs.

    You are a true viking and you’d fit right in here in Iceland ^.^


  3. Clancy Nacht Says:

    I had so much fun and it was great meeting people! I did go to high school parties and they weren’t as much fun. No one had even one vulva lollipop and trust me, some of those boys could’ve used a candy hint about the location of a clit (girls too, but those were college parties.)

    And I swear that Opal fixed my throat! The dry New Mexico air made it sore and after that I was all better. It was totally awful, though. I want more.

  4. Ethan Stone Says:

    Edmond–I had a blast at both vodka parties. The vagina pop was hilarious. Hope we can do it again sometime.

  5. Edmond Says:

    So glad you guys liked my recollection of our awesome party. Clancy, I’m glad that Opal fixed your throat…who knew it had medicinal purposes? Vagina pops for everyone!

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