As part being Diplowife, I sometimes accompany JG to parties wherein we get to rub elbows with the rest of the diplomatic community posted here in Tripoli. Most of the time it’s the certain country’s National Day, or whatever historical event that they commemorate, last night it was the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of Madagascar. Since JG is the number two guy in the embassy, attending such parties is not a regular thing. He is sent when the Ambassador is not able to.
I am not complaining. JG and I we are not the party going kind of people, especially ones like what we attended last night, where getting all dressed up and mingling are called for. I have never attended such formals, not once prior to being here. My idea of a party is potluck, paper plates, kids running around, lots of hugging, inside jokes, and karaoke. JG on the other hand, prefers to be alone with his book/laptop/comic book.
So there is really no point in denying that we are not used to attending such parties. My first concern when invited is what to wear. They don’t really say if there’s a dress code, my very helpful husband only usually says “just dress nicely” and I am left with that. Our first reception was S. Korea National Day, JG took out one of his nice suits so I assumed I should dress as formal, and took out a nice dress. When we got there, I immediately realized that I was overdressed. Put it this way, I kept thinking that people were waiting for me to go out front, grab the mic, and burst into song. So to avoid from that happening again, unless the invitation says “really formal, as in black tie thing”, I go wearing a crisp business attire (I’m not use to carrying that style either, but it’s better than feeling like a cocktail performer). The one thing you can’t avoid is wearing heels. Believe me when I say that it is not easy to find nice flat shoes for formal occasions, it is also not easy to find comfortable heels. They are existent, but I’m one of those people who would feel bad about the number of books I could buy in exchange for a pair of shoes that I would be wearing once in a blue moon. Aside from the pain it gives me walking in them, I walk like a boy, so it is not a very pretty sigh, me in heels.
Then there’s the mingling part. You bump into someone, your eyes meet, you smile. You shake hands, introductions are made, “How long have you been in Libya?”, “How do you find it so far?” , you try to find a common ground. Something I learned from reading Jane Austen is when you have nothing better to say, you talk about the weather. So when I hear myself saying, “Nice weather today, isn’t it?”, only means I’m running out of ideas. And before dead air occurs, I excuse myself, and that’s about it.
Technically JG can go by himself; he’s not really required to bring a date. But I think he brings me along so he won’t look like a wall flower. I don’t mind really, whatever I can do to help. And it really isn’t so bad, it’s a nice way to meet people (if you get over the small talk and meet someone you like); for a housewife like me, it’s a good excuse from my cooking chores; and my favorite part is I get a glimpse of the host country’s culture. Last night three men entertained the crowd with some Madagascar music, each armed with a square guitar or an accordion, a violin, and percussions. I wished I could understand what they were singing about, and I was trying to keep myself from dancing to the beat.
Plus, I try to absorb as much as I can, as far as throwing a party is concerned. I will eventually have to throw one myself one day. The protocol part is another matter, JG says I can leave that to a protocol officer, or hire a good caterer, one that’s experienced in the diplomatic parties; so that’s one less thing to worry about. And although they usually just serve drinks and h’orderves, I can’t deny that getting a sampling of their food is a great reason to go as well.
Hopefully with a few more practice we’ll both get used to it. For now, we’ll just take it one party at a time.