My surprise birthday party my older fiancé, Patrick, had organized was in full swing. Most of the guests had introduced themselves to one another, but I went around the room, speaking with everyone, one by one, with Patrick by my side; we both thanked them together for coming to the birthday celebration. I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to Patrick, but he knew his surprise had worked out beautifully.
There were a number of my girlfriends who were meeting each other for the first time. And many of Patrick’s friends had never met many of my girlfriends. Everyone let loose once the bottomless champagne and wine were served. There were also lots of never-ending food platters.
Almost everyone was eating heartily, but I noticed two of my girlfriends were barely touching the food, although they were drinking. It was the first time they had met and I was looking forward to them getting to know each other. Unfortunately, they somehow got into a heated debate about the artist/photographer Diane Arbus.
Both of these women considered themselves experts on the subject, especially after tossing back all that champagne and wine. One had been a professional photographer herself and continued it as a serious hobby. The other woman had attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. So, we basically had an intellectual debate going on over whether Arbus was an artist or a photographer. The debate quickly turned nasty and my two girlfriends, both of whom I loved dearly, became bitter foes. They barely managed to contain their anger and for those sitting within hearing distance, which was many, the atmosphere turned from festive to tense.
Patrick tried to smooth things over by changing the subject and I was afraid of looking like I was taking sides, so I switched the conversation to a sailing friend of Patrick’s who was paying a lot of attention to another girlfriend of mine, whom he had also just met that night. I thought things had finally taken a turn for the better, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After I cut the cake and Patrick made his toast, we decided to call it a night. In fact, we were the first ones to head out, but no one seemed to mind. Patrick had discreetly paid the bill. We went back to my apartment and had a lovely time hashing over all the details before we tumbled off to bed.
I wouldn’t learn until the next morning what really happened that night. A small group of the birthday guests had stayed too late and no doubt consumed too much, including my two Diane Arbus expert friends, who voiced their grudges well into the night. Eventually, they were asked to leave. But that’s not the worst part. I received news early the next morning that one of my girlfriends, the one who had met one of Patrick’s male friends, spent the night locked up in jail for driving under the influence. I couldn’t help but feel partly responsible. Sometimes you have to be careful not to let your older man take up all of your attention, because you never know what you could be missing.