I don’t pay to go to parties. It’s a principle of mine. Don’t think I’m stingy though– I’ll pay to go to concerts, movies, clubs, even escape rooms. But they all have something in common: amenities beyond the opportunity to see the inside of the apartment of a college student I’m not on a first-name basis with, and a single keg of beer (if that– flyers for paid parties are notorious for having “BYOB” right below the cover charge).
If I know ahead of time, I won’t go out of my way to a party that’s charging to stand in the shared space of a two-bedroom apartment. But sometimes they surprise you at the door with a Political Science major demanding a tax to get through the door (they must be on the oligarchy unit in class). And so begins the standoff: casing the party as best you can from the other side of the security guard. He’s also on the intramural rugby team so he has wide shoulders.
Alone, I am perfectly content to turn around and find something else to keep myself occupied for the night. My paint chips need to be counted, after all. But with a group it becomes a democratic issue. All cast their votes and must go with the majority. My personal convictions won’t sway the majority. Instead I will be cast out, alone in a lifeboat for my attempt at a mutiny.
The most recent instance of a party like this was a birthday celebration that a roommate of a friend had heard about. We’re stopped by a throng of girls in lingerie: the entry fee is five dollars. I wish they’d told me about the theme beforehand. I love their outfits.
The flattery doesn’t work. I still need to pay the full five dollars. I’m alright with my night ending early. As I bid my friends goodbye on the stoop, one of the door girls says “And don’t forget to say Happy Birthday to the birthday girl!” My friends nod. They’ll be on the lookout for this mystery woman. They needn’t look far. She steps forward from the other bouncers. I didn’t expect it to be her– nobody of sound mind would choose to work the door at their own birthday party. And the entrance fees were slipped into a different person’s bra. She wasn’t making any money off of this venture anyway.
What kind of person wants to forgo a party itself and do the grunt work job people are normally relegated to as a punishment? Let’s not forget that it’s the pledges that have to work these jobs for the first year of their miserable descent into fraternity life. I think it’s born from a craving for power: the feel of money being exchanged between hands, the excitement on their faces when you let them up, the whole time thinking “These people are here to see me.” (well, not actually. Something you created: a space to gather by moving a couch with the impeccable ambience of purple LED lighting).
It’s a little bit like a pyramid scheme: get a lot of paying customers who bring other customers. The people who get in early get to experience what little amenities were bought with the profits from the last party, and the poor saps who bought in late just get to say that they were a part of something bigger than themselves, at least. Who cares! They’re at the bottom of the pyramid!