A social situation

It is that time of year once again, after New Years but before summer, that is classified as “peak social season.”

Friends, friends of friends, and people I don’t even know have flooded my Facebook event list with invites to socials starting this weekend and continuing for the entire season; in fact, sitting in my Gmail inbox right now is a message from a particularly social-inclined group of friends wishing to plan our calendar for the season.

I love socials, and as an experienced attendee for the majority of my life, I have confidence in my ability to compile a fairly extensive list of social do’s and don’ts. But before I get ahead of myself, if you have never been a social, I will raise one eyebrow at you while I explain what it is.

A social is a fundraising party, often for a wedding, charitable or community organization, and is usually held at a community centre or other small hall. Only people in the prairies throw socials, so my first “don’t” is don’t try to explain socials to people who don’t live here; they will not understand it until they experience it.

Some socials have a theme, such as Halloween or Hawaiian. Do partake — group costumes are key. Regardless of theme or cause, there are a few commonalities between all socials: the standard ticket price is always around ten dollars and drinks are expected to be cheap.

Even more so than pricing, there are the three key aspects that are a requirement for any good social: music, food and auctions/draws.

Music is what I go to socials for. There is nothing better than workin’ up a sweat grooving to some oldies. “Stuck in the Middle with You,” by Steelers Wheel, “Saturday Night,” by Whigfield, and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey are all classic social songs that can be counted on to fill the dance floor.

Since dancing is such a key component to a good night, my most important “do” is to wear good dancing shoes. High heels are all pretty and sexy, but ten minutes into the night, they are off and you are dancing barefoot on a floor that has many mysterious sticky spots on it. Just wear flats and save yourself the trouble. On the subject of wardrobe, do dress nicely, but don’t wear a dress that shows off “the goods” every time you jump during “Shout” by the Isley Brothers.
That is no fun for anyone involved. If you should decide to go for cocktail attire, at least make sure you are strapped in accordingly, that is all I ask.

All that dancing works up an appetite, but a constant at any social is the mysterious platters that appear, providing fuel for those who are looking for food rather than drink and to balance those who have drank to much: it’s known as midnight snack table!

The midnight snack table is always something to look forward to. Traditionally, this includes kubasa (a kind of sausage), other luncheon meats, rye bread, pickles and cheese — perfect foods to sober you up a bit so you can keep on dancing for another two hours.

Although each table is stocked with some chips or pretzels throughout the night, the buffet style snack table is where it’s at, especially if you’re at a Slavic social — perogies and various meats galore! So my next “do” is to eat as much as you can!

It’s basically free and also delicious, but don’t take too much food because leftovers will result in a hilarious condition called “salami shoulder.” Salami shoulder is the newest social trend that I have learned about. My friend Anders explained this phenomenon to me after I inquired why he kept rubbing the back of his shoulders. “Gotta check for salami,” he replied.

My quizzical expression induced him to explain further. After the midnight cold cuts come out, some guys stock up on salami to stealthily place on the shoulder blades of other guys at the social.

The salami then sticks to their clothing and remains there until it falls off, gets removed by someone, or at the end of the night when said guy undresses for bed and realizes the entire cold cut table was on his back. I was pretty underwhelmed with this concept, and a little angry at the waste of food, until I saw it happen. Now, I am not one to appreciate that kind of humour, but I will admit to laughing pretty hard when the guy in front of me in the bar line had a perfectly round piece of salami stuck to each shoulder blade.

Auctions are the final aspect to the holy trinity of socials. Speaking as someone who always wins stuff, auctions are great! Tickets aren’t usually that expensive and the prizes are pretty good. I’ve won a microwave, a mini fridge, eight seasons of a TV show, food, gift certificates and the list goes on.

Do buy lots of tickets — support the cause! — but don’t put all your tickets in at once. You have to space them out throughout the night to achieve optimum winning potential. There is also the “perfume draw,” which gives some lucky attendee a chance to win a Texas mickey of rye; it is called a perfume draw because it is illegal to auction off booze, but we all do it anyway.

The typical routine for this draw is to pay $5 for an arms length of tickets, so do wait for the abnormally tall and lanky groomsman to come around selling so you get more tickets for your money. Those are two pro tips for free; if anyone wins anything because of this information, I expect a cut.

To complete your social etiquette training, there are a few last tips to ensure a great time had by all. Do buy your ticket in advance; don’t forget to bring it with you. Buying in advance helps the organizers with numbers and may save you a couple dollars off of the door price.

Do bring some cash for liquor and draws; it’s a fundraising event — don’t be tightwad. And, if you plan to drink (and you should be planning on this, since no one can pass up a $2.50 drink), do plan a safe ride home.

So, if you like drinking a lot, dancing to classic anthems, eating, drinking some more and winning stuff, then a social just may be the place for you! If you like none of these things, then I’m pretty sure you are not a real Manitoban and should consider moving elsewhere. See you on the social circuit!

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