Endless Slummer: Why the best parties are Bring Your Own Bagel

Things can still be expensive, ill-intentioned and overpriced, even if we can afford to pay for them over and over again

Kay rarely cooked but when he did it was an impressive sight: amidst a terrifying flurry of knives and frying pans was an unruly amount of food that was literally gutted and pureed in mid-air. But despite the amusement of the floor show, supper wasn’t just about satisfying an urgent craving at a given point in the day, rather it was an attempt to stretch out a meagre meal to last an entire week. “Supper?” Kay would laugh. “This is breakfast, brunch, a coffee break and a midnight snack.”

Chopping a few starchy vegetables into a pot along with handfuls of pasta, it certainly looked like he was throwing a party – the kind of shaker that would stretch and yawn over the course of several days even though only one person had been invited. That was okay though because all our friends were busy eating in restaurants and at buffets and places that we couldn’t afford – they knew better than to invite us to their own mealtime soirees but it was nice when they tried. Even worse, sometimes Kay and I would surprise everyone and show up to crash the nosh, ordering strictly beer and doing shots of pocket gin under the table when the waitress wasn’t looking.

The best kinds of parties are BYOB, when you can slum in a social situation with a well-intentioned selection of the cheapest, most odious liquor. But what if that party gets moved to somewhere a little more upscale, where the bartender frowns and stamps and points towards the exit because you tried to Bring Your Own Bagel?

I loved my friends, but sometimes I hated their choices. Even so, it wasn’t their fault that I couldn’t afford to eat out with the rest of them, especially when I had already spent all my money the night before getting drunk at the show where I had scammed my way in via the guestlist. But that was part of the trouble about getting older – your body no longer able handle the 4am dance parties or the afternoon day drunk sessions. Instead, the imminent reward for a job well done came in the form of an occasional frittata, a fruit plate and an overzealous cup of coffee. Too bad it came at a cost I could never justify.

“Fuck brunch,” Kay would say, as he stuffed an aging loaf bread into his mouth, the same crust we bought two days ago for a potluck that we forgot to attend. I had to agree – we could barely afford the six-pack to accompany our breakfast. But, despite the supposedly noble sentiments of endlessly slumming, the gesture of no frills consumption itself was getting stale.

Years later, when I finally had a job where I could afford the occasional gorging, my friends would still laugh at me when I’d crinkle my nose and back away slowly from a giant plate of deep-fried appetizers. But it wasn’t always a money issue – sometimes it was just a bloated sense of past pride and an ego that never properly spoiled and decomposed. Things can still be expensive, ill-intentioned and overpriced, even if we can afford to pay for them over and over again.

Even so, it was nice when my friends let me take the leftovers home. For the after party, I’d tell them.