Sunday, April 9, 2006

I found this in some NYC hipster store, in one of those ubiquitous giveaway postcards-with-advertising racks they've all got over by the men's room. It's been tacked on my dorm room plasterboard wall since... I guess... 2002, in the hopes that I'd follow Mr. Peters's advice, get off my ass, and be more social. But alas, postcards make ineffectual goads and, back in college, I rarely left my room unless the clamor of my neighbors doing it was driving me crazy. So actually, senior year, I was out of my room a lot.

Four years later and a graduation later, and the Social Circles postcard is buried in a pile of all the other crap — the business cards, the Far Side cartoons, the pictures of people I haven't seen since high school — that used to be on my wall. I still haven't kept that New Year's resolution, and with most of my friends living far, far away and no floormates' caterwauling make-up sex forcing me out of my room, my social life has only gone downhill, which I didn't even think was possible. You learn something new.... and this is when Mom pointed me towards the New Jersey Young Professionals, an open group of, um, young professionals from New Jersey who have trouble meeting people in the social chaos of our home state. They host events that usually have the words "mixer" or "business card exchange" in their title, and I unduly get this sort of party-line infomercial vibe off of them:

Are you sick of the contrived, anonymous, ad-supported social networking. At NJYP, we have over 5500 young, hot professionals all looking for a good time.
Sorry, they're not prurient at all, unfortunately (cough, cough!). Mostly, they just put on awkward icebreaker events where everyone wears a "Hello, my name is" tag — like everyone gets together at a club in Hoboken, you get three or four pieces of Magnetic Poetry and then you have to mingle with other people and try to make sentences combining your words with theirs. Because that doesn't sound totally awkward if you're not in a second-grade English class.

Here's what I don't understand. If you don't have a problem going up to strangers and asking, "So what're your words?" then why do you need this stupid magnet mixer in the first place?

I'd been a NJYP member for about a month before finally running across an event that seemed relatively normal: game night at Brewed Awakenings in Metuchen. (I think "Brewed Awakenings" is an awful name for a coffee house, but according to Google, lots of proprietors disagree.) I figured I could drive to Metuchen, sort of pretend like I randomly stumbled into the place, and scope out the environment over an iced latte. If the happy pills I take decide that today, for once, they'll do their damn job, maybe I'll even join in the Scattergories.

The only thing is that you're supposed to bring a game. Make sure all the pieces are there. Well, that last part's pretty easy for me, because I'm freaking anal when it comes to keeping track of tiny objects children can choke on. The first part... not so much. See, the thing is, as a single child with no actual social life, I don't own a whole lot of board games and the games that I do own... well, I'd hate to be judged on what I brought to the party. There's go, the ancient Chinese game of putting stones on a board that no one but mathematicians and Darren Aronofsky has the patience for. There's a Trivial Pursuit where I memorized all the answers. There's Yahtzee... or, uh, travel Yahtzee. (I believe someone bought it for me in the days before God gave us Game Boy.) And there's Solarquest, which is basically Monopoly for nerds. The biggest difference is that, in Solarquest, everybody forgets the rules after an hour or so and gives up, whereas with Monopoly, you simply get into fisticuffs with your opponents after an hour or so.

My family also owns a bunch of games that were invented back in the seventies, when everyone was high on acid. Like "Probe," which Parker Brothers calls, without a hint of irony, "the most provocative game of words since the invention of the modern alphabet." Really. You pick a word and other people have to guess it! It's literally minutes of fun, and it's so provocative — national conflicts have started after one superpower challenged the spelling of another's word! (But apparently, there was an even more provocative word game using Sumerian cunieform that's been lost to history.) And somewhere in the bowels of our house is "The Plot To Assassinate Hitler," which takes weeks to play and pretty much makes Advanced Dungeons & Dragons look like Candy Land. I didn't think any of those were appropriate.

So I went gameless, and the whole thing was sort of anticlimactic. I didn't get involved or anything, and I don't really think I missed out on the excitement of Pictionary. Still, it's nice to know that there's people out there, and when those people come up with some other meet-and-greet that's not totally awkward, I might show up and watch.


Mike said...

So what actually happenned when you got there. You're telling us all the parts except the ones we actually care about.