I’ve always gotten a little smirk out of the Rick Nelson song “Garden Party”. Years ago I never knew why the chorus resonated with me. Then I went to a white gown party and I stayed a while.
If you ever go to a real blow out white gown event and stay a while, you’ll emerge a different person. And when I emerged as a different person, I found that some of my old acquaintances didn’t seem to like me after my time on the party circuit. At best, many folks struggled to say something common, but it was awkward.
The party circuit changed me. In fact, as hyped up on drugs as I was, I recall a lady in a white gown with a lot of initials at the end of her name. She told me that the party life would change me. She warned me that many folks would not accept the change and that I had to give myself permission to reinvent myself. So, I slowly started to change.
In fact, after my time at the party, I was diminished physically. After all, they cauterized off part of my brain. They said it was because my brain was wrecked. I know that sounds wild but those folks in the white gowns can do some strange things. When things were really wild, I couldn’t even walk. Actually, my balance is still diminished now, twelve years after my first white gown party. Of course my speech has become a bit slurred too. I guess I should have expected as much.
So I’ve changed. Part of that was deliberate, part of that was not. I don’t regret the change. In fact, I really had no choice. The lady with a lot of initials seemed to speak with the authority of a doctor–I had to give myself permission to change because I was changed. There were others saying the same thing, even though they weren’t actually wearing white gowns at the party. They were white gown party veterans whose advice I will always cherish. They were all right.
After the first white gown party, I never thought I’d attend another. The funny thing is, I’ve been to two more since. In fact, I even took a ride to the last one in the limousine with the backward letters. I can’t say that I went to any of these white gown parties because I thought it would be fun. I just went.
I’m not arrogant enough to necessarily think that I changed for the better and that all the old crowd was wrong or ignorant. However, I had changed. When you’ve had your mind altered at a white gown party, you are changed. It’s hard for others to accept change in anyone and, unfortunately, change sometimes reveals certain relationships for what they are. I realized that I wasn’t as popular with some folks if I couldn’t or wasn’t going to be who I used to be. However, being a changed person taught me a few things. I learned, much to my surprise at first, that some folks maybe didn’t care so much about me for my sake. Rather they cared about me for their sake. Some folks who’ve never been to a white gown party even pronounced me unchanged. They didn’t understand. Still, I eventually realized that I couldn’t please everyone, so I’ve had to please myself.
Of course that last statement sounds so selfish. The thing is, it’s also a truism and I think I’m better off just accepting it. Life becomes empty when we are trying to please others. It leaves us chasing a result that we can’t control. For someone who believes in the golden rule about treating others as I wish to be treated, it’s hard to reconcile at first. However, I think that I’ve long had a misunderstanding of the golden rule. The golden rule is all about how we treat others and that is really important. However, it says nothing about trying to control the emotional reactions of others with regard to how we’ve treated them. I think that the long-haired guy who gave us the golden rule was trying to say that when he told us not to seek the praise of others. By the way, it seemed like the long-haired guy who gave the golden rule was at the white gown parties too. I didn’t actually see Him there but I sensed His presence.
So, I’ve never been to a garden party but I think Rick Nelson is right, with a twist. If we realize we can’t please others, then we can stop worrying about that and maybe we can concern ourselves with how we treat them instead. As to the pleasing side of the equation, I think we will recover best from hard partying if we just do right by ourselves. And I think that a little smirking along the way is fine, too.