As the 200-foot yacht pulled away from Pier 81, the deck of the ship was abuzz. Bumping music, clinking glasses, chatty partygoers. Groups of friends snaked their way around the hull, arms interlocked, sharing conspiratorial laughs. I scuttled around the edge of the boat like a crab, clutching the railing, watching the west side of Manhattan slip away with a mild sense of panic. I searched my heart for someone to blame and found only myself.
I was the one who’d volunteered to go to a party alone a few weeks prior for the sake of a how-to story. That was all me. I’d done it with the kind of enthusiasm I have in spades while making plans and rarely maintain through their execution. The idea made me laugh. I made a note to look out for party invites.
This one came by way of Onepiece, the brand behind the terrycloth onesie I wear around my house on lazy Sundays. The party was, in part, celebrating the release of a pink version. Adorable, I thought. I noted its location. What if I went to a party alone ON A BOAT? It’s funny because I can’t leave! I RSVP’d. How scary could an event thrown in honor of terrycloth really be?
By the time I received the docking details a week later, my attitude had deeply soured. It was not just about terrycloth. It was hosted by “The Fat Jew,” sponsored by White Girl Rosé, with a performance by Diplo. The thought of attending this party solo occurred, quite suddenly, to be a very bad idea. I knew my trepidation was objectively insufferable — it’s a party on a yacht, for christ’s sake! — but as far as my quickly snowballing social anxiety was concerned, I was boarding a sinking ship.
The day before I set sail, I asked team MR to share their best partying-alone advice. I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Below is what they told me and whether or not it worked. Use as a how-to guide if it suits you, but do so at your own risk.
1. Wear something that’s a conversation starter.
This one executed itself by way of me missing a critical memo: This was a pink party. Everything there, from the carpets to the drinks to the little lighters they were handing out for free, was as pink as I was friendless. Not a soul in attendance wasn’t dressed accordingly. That is, barring me and my yellow dress, bobbing around the party like a banana that fell into a bowl of shrimp. This wasn’t effective at making me friends so much as alienating me, physically.
Heed this particular tip with upmost caution.
☝️Or☝️… just read the invitation.
2. Make sure your phone is fully charged.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. In fact, I should have doubled down and brought a charger. Phones are partying-alone life lines. I can say that because I’m a millennial.
Upon boarding, I commandeered Man Repeller’s Instagram account to document my experience. It was, I admit, a thinly veiled guise to give me something to do. Unfortunately for me, I was so committed to this endeavor (plus generally nervous) that I not only killed my battery before the party ended, but also received several DMs advising me to get off my phone and talk to people.
Maybe use that tip instead?
3. Get there hungry and sober so you have a goal.
I spent the first 30 minutes of the party wandering around the boat with my head on a swivel, eyebrows raised, as if to communicate to any onlookers that I was not alone, but rather in the midst of locating my friends. This enabled me to tour the party and sort through the food and drink offerings free of awkwardness.
This tip so far: +1
I settled for a McDonald’s hamburger and fries, which I consumed alone on a pink couch, in a VIP area no one knew existed. If a photographer had been there and I were Alexa Chung, this would have made for a chic photo op. Unfortunately neither were true, nor did this make me friends. It did boost morale, though.
4. Make friends with the bartender.
The only other person in VIP was, as luck would have it, a bartender. I sidled up to her like I was John Wayne and asked her for a beer in a tone that said, This party, am I right? Let’s bond. She told me curtly that I didn’t have the appropriate wristband for a beer, but that I could have a can of rosé. I apologized for asking a question to which the answer wasn’t yes and took the rosé. Then she returned to her phone.
Will retry this tip next time I’m alone in a saloon.
5. Make a trip to the ladies’ room for bathroom-line-socializing purposes.
This one seemed like a gimme; I wrote about the social oasis of women’s restrooms at parties just last week. To my dismay, the bathroom was mostly empty save for two women, both of whom were carrying entire wine bottles with large straws poking out of the tops, which I found funny.
“You went for the whole bottle, huh?” I said, trying to sound cool but instead sounding like a dad trying to fit in.
“Yeah! Why not?” they laughed, “Diplo’s here!” Unable to tell if they were being ironic, I over-enthusiastically and disingenuously agreed. Then we parted ways and never saw each other again for the rest of our lives.
This was a good tip; I blame user error.
6. Bring extra tampons to make friends on said trips to the bathroom.
I did bring a tampon! It was all-natural, eco-friendly, sustainably produced and no one asked for it.
7. If you see a circle and it’s crowded enough, execute the slow back bump, apologize and then ask how everyone’s night is going.
About an hour into our Hudson River journey, I performed the slow bump into a clump of friendly-looking women. Instead of preceding the meet-cute of my dreams, we exchanged such profuse and groveling apologies that an outsider would have guessed we’d burned each other’s homes down instead of gently brushed elbows. The conversation ended there and I immediately called my lawyer to press charges.
8. Migrate towards the solo people at the bar and ask what they’re drinking to spark conversation.
Me: “Getting your own bottle, huh? Might as well do it up!”
Woman: “Ha, yep!”
Woman departs bar; I wonder if I have literally any other questions in my arsenal and/or died and came back as a dad visiting his son’s fraternity.
9. Channel Rosie Assoulin who, according to Leandra, talks to any and everyone at parties.
As I do not know Rosie Assoulin personally, I struggled to heed this particular tip with any authority. But that’s hardly an excuse for spending the first half of the party standing around with false purpose, getting to know my bag. I’d like to credit an Assoulian spirit for my first actual conversation, but it was me who was approached, not the other way around…
Real interaction #1: She knew my brother, she said, and wanted to say hi. I told her I loved her. Just kidding, but I did think it. We hung out for a while before I got worried I was clinging and wandered off.
Real interaction #2: Soon after, I ran into a guy I’d met during my hunt for a Craigslist roommate. After telling him I was there alone, perhaps too eagerly and with a look in my eyes that said HELP, he said, “Well it was nice to see you!” and nearly fell overboard in his scramble to get away.
Real interaction #3: What ultimately cracked the tension wide open was when two women from Seventeen magazine, emanating kindness, came up to me to say hi. They’d seen themselves on Man Repeller’s Instagram story. We hung out for more than 30 minutes! We told each other things! Then, I followed them to the tattoo table where…
Real interaction #4: …I ran into another of my brother’s friends who recognized me. (Hi Andy, thank you for being the social butterfly that you are.) She was waiting to get a tattoo of the phrase “no. 1” on her pinky. She knew the artist and said he’d do her a favor. Same. We followed the mutual-friend-run-in protocol and sent a photo to my brother.
Real interaction #5, the one that ruled them all: While posing for said photo, a guy asked if I wouldn’t mind being their fourth player in a round of rosé pong. Yes, he said rosé pong, and yes, I said I would. Desperate times call for you not judging me right now.
We didn’t end up finishing the round because who cares (confirmed: not a dad at a frat party), but I did spend the rest of the night with Ethan, my teammate, and David and Kaylan, our opponents. We even went to the after party together. I all but forgot I’d come alone; I got their numbers!
10. If all else fails, just pretend everyone in the room is your mom.
Fortunately I never had to employ this particular tip, which I frankly found a little befuddling.
I hate to admit it, but going to a party alone wasn’t so terrible. Not unlike the surge of affection I feel for strangers I’m stuck in unfortunate situations with, I found that being nervous and unsure of myself ultimately made for a sort of endearing social lubricant. People were sympathetic and kind, and actually did most of the work for me. Had I been there with friends, I don’t think I’d have talked to any of them. It’s a lesson I almost wish I hadn’t learned, because it proves what I wish weren’t true: Making friends as an adult might be as easy as showing up alone.
Photos provided by Haley Nahman.