The topic of this week’s column is that most curious of social rituals: the in-home product party.
For those of you lucky enough not to have experienced this sort of thing, this is how it works: First, one of your friends must go temporarily insane.
Then, she will develop a deep and abiding interest in a product, like, say, scented candles. Other potential interests, dependent on geographical location, will include: plastic containers (suburbs), cosmetics (downtown), fake flowers (apartment block), kitchen utensils (cottagers), baskets (countryside), and sex toys (everywhere except in certain households in the US, as Republicans prefer to purchase this sort of thing via mail order catalogue).
If you notice that your friend is showing signs of this form of insanity, my advice to you is: Throw yourself off a cliff. This is because the next thing your friend will do with her new interest is decide to host a product party, and inevitably, you will be invited. And nothing short of a full body cast will be a good enough excuse to miss it. (You could throw her off a cliff, but this might involve jail time, which is marginally worse than a product party. Use your own judgment here.)
On the day of the big event, you and the other invitees will show up at the host’s house. Usually, you can categorize your fellow party-goers like so:
a) Product party innocents. This will be their first time, and they will be unaware of the horrors about to unfold. Remember what it was like for you, and be gentle.
b) Scarred veterans. These are product party survivors who are used to politely accepting these sorts of invitations to help their normally rational friends through this tough time. It can be fun to wager with them about the next person in your social circle to succumb to the temporary insanity. Also, set up a secret signal with them that, when made, will allow everyone to suddenly get up, exclaim about the time, and rush off without seeming rude.
c) Party converts. A rare species of human, not yet fully understood by modern science, these people actually like this sort of get-together. Avoid them as much as possible, because one of their reasons for attending is to pass out invitations to their next party.
The next step will be to pass out the highly fattening snack foods that everyone will claim they can’t possibly eat. This will be followed by several minutes of agonizingly polite small talk, where the guests will: praise the host’s skills at hosting, complain about men, pretend they don’t know they’re expected to buy something from the host, discuss major items in the news, complain about men, compare their children, and also complain about men.
By this time, several bowls full of the highly fattening, but surely inedible snack food will have been edibled. It’s at this point the host will bring out The Products.
Each product will be have to be passed around and examined by every guest in excruciating detail. You are also expected to make some comment about it, which is harder than it sounds. For example, there are only so many adjectives that can be applied to scented candles, and they are: “smelly” and “waxy.”
Finally, you will have to buy something. Party veterans know that your fastest route to escape will be to buy the cheapest item on display and call it a night. Less experienced invitees will waste valuable time searching for something that they might actually use.
Now I know all you men out there are feeling smug, because you think men don’t do this sort of thing. My answer to you is: neener, neener, you do so.
Not only are there product parties for power tools and car parts, but men have developed many other ways of selling things. These include: going door-to-door, calling people in the middle of supper and running hour-long infomercials. So while women only annoy their close friends with hard sell techniques, men can irritate entire sections of the population.
Anyway, if you’re thinking of hosting a product party any time soon, do me a favour and skip my invitation. There’s only so many times I can survive a fall off a cliff.