One of the pleasantest ways of enjoying the company of our friends and acquiring social confidence is to attend a party of the type usually conducted in a private home. It is natural for boys and girls, especially in their final years of secondary school, to seek this form of social pleasure in the happy atmosphere of their own homes or the homes of their friends. There is never much difficulty in finding some reason for “throwing a party”, and such gatherings, when well organized and supervised, can do much good in fostering social competence and mutual respect. They are harmful when they are allowed to become rowdy, disorderly or too frequent.
Sometimes rivalry to outdo one another in the lavishness of parties can lead to much unjustified expense. In addition to the cost, a party can be a fatiguing experience, and you will quickly take the edge off your enjoyment if you attend too many of them. Furthermore, a boy in the important years of his secondary schooling has serious responsibilities to himself and his family, not the least of which is to apply himself to study in order to equip himself for a career. You just cannot do the rounds of all the parties and hope to succeed in the serious business of study. To take the fun that is offering now and sacrifice the security and prestige of an honourable career later is regrettable folly. Therefore, don’t hesitate to decline graciously any invitations that you know will interfere with your more important duties.
Making out the invitation
To see how a young man should conduct himself at a private social function let us take a typical example. Tony Parkes is a boy of sixteen who has just completed his examinations after a year of hard study. He decides to organize a party at home as the best means of relaxing with his friends. He first consults his parents and obtains their approval and with them settles on a suitable date. He feels that he knows all his anticipated guests well enough to give them an informal verbal invitation, or ring them up. However, his parents encourage him to carry out things in a more formal way by sending out correctly worded invitations. These are sometimes specially printed, but, as Tony has decided with his parents that twenty guests is all they can accommodate, he finds it no great trouble to write out the individual invitations.
For this purpose he chooses plain white paper of good quality. He writes the invitation towards the middle of the page, taking care to use the third person throughout, thus:
Tony Parkes requests the pleasure of the company of Sandra Hill at a party to be held at his home on Saturday, 8th August, at 8:00 p.m.
572 Old South Head Road
The invitations are posted about three weeks before the date set down for the party. Apart from the use of the third person in the wording of the invitation there are three other points to be noted: the letters R.S.V.P. (abbreviation of the French for “Please reply’) are very important as Tony’s mother must know exactly how many guests to prepare for; the address of the host is written at the bottom of the invitation, not at the top as is usual in letters; the words “Dress informal” tell the guests that they may come in any suitable attire.
The invited guest sends her reply within a few days of receiving the invitation, using a form of words similar to that of the invitation:
Sandra Hill has much pleasure in accepting the kind invitation of Tony Parkes for Saturday, 8th August, at 8:00 p.m.
356 Wentworth Road
It is most discourteous to fail to answer an invitation to a function of this kind. If Sandra is unable to attend, she should reply without delay so that Tony may invite some other person if he wishes. In this case her reply is expressed as follows:
Sandra Hill regrets that she is unable to accept the kind invitation of Tony Parkes for Saturday, 8th August.
356 Wentworth Road
The use of printed cards expressing acceptance or inability to accept an invitation is now widespread, but the personal handwritten reply is always to be preferred.
Arriving at the party
For the type of party that Tony is giving, a fair amount of latitude is allowed the guests in timing their arrival. The host meets all the guests as they arrive and, if necessary, introduces them to his parents. Coats and umbrellas are taken from the guests in the hallway, or, alternatively, the guests are shown where they may leave them.
The guests are then conducted into the room where the party is to be held. It is likely that most of them will already be known to one another, so that formal introductions can be cut to a minimum.
Entertaining the guests
At a party for young people plenty of means of amusement should be provided for the guests. Music, indoor games, singing, dancing can all be brought into use to enable the guests to mingle freely and enjoy one another’s company. A good deal of noise is inevitable at a gathering of this kind, but Tony’s parents are likely to take an indulgent view of the fun, provided it is kept within reasonable bounds. They can hardly be blamed for taking particular note of any guest who by his boorishness or rowdy behaviour abuses their hospitality. He is sure to find himself left off any future invitation
Nowadays there are so many wholesome ways for young people to enjoy themselves that there is no reason why parties should be spoilt by games and practices that are either immoral or at least highly questionable, so that what should be an opportunity for genuine social pleasure becomes an occasion of sin. When the party takes this turn it is time for the Catholic boy who values his principles to pack up and go home.
The party supper
As host, Tony announces to the guests when supper is ready. The more usual thing is to take supper in buffet style, with some of the guests helping the members of the family to serve. In particular it is the duty of the gentlemen present to see that the needs of the ladies are attended to, before thinking of themselves.
A problem of increasing concern is the presence of alcoholic liquor at young people’s parties. It is hardly to be expected that responsible parents will permit alcohol in any form at a party attended by school-pupils. Even for those who are some years out of school there is real moral and physical danger in the use of alcohol. Sometimes persons still in their teens take alcohol at parties because it gives them a feeling of being grown up; others adopt the still weaker excuse that “others are doing it”.
It is pitiful to see young Catholic men and women taking strong drink (which they don’t really like, anyway) merely to conform to the standards of those around them. If liquor is served at the party, remember that you don’t have to take it. It is a strange sort of party if no alternative drink is offered.
Father Daniel Lord S.J. has this to say on the question of drinking at parties: “Young people have as much need for liquor as they have for crutches. They have within themselves all that they need to have a good time. When a crowd of them are together song should be easy, jokes fly fast, their feet should fairly itch to dance. They are not a lot of old codgers needing an alcoholic build-up. Drink is not a necessity for youth. On the contrary it can be a grave danger since it lessens the control of their lower natures.”
Continued next month