Recently I attended a party being thrown by a coworker’s girlfriend. D invited me along so he would have someone to talk to as his girlfriend was the only person there that he knew. Upon arriving, I surprised myself by having a really great time.
Then Pretentious Man arrived. Pretentious Man is a very old undergrad (he would not reveal his age) who wears Mr. Rogers sweaters and points out to everyone that he smokes a pipe instead of cigarettes or cigars to anyone who will listen. As I was the only other single guy there, he immediately sizes me up as the competition for the evening and sidles over.
You see, he had been invited at the last minute by a drunken girl from his church because he and I both study religion and went to the same high school and she thought it would be fun. He immediately tries to figure out my academic pedigree in the area of religious studies. I chat a little bit about it and then I admit to him that if I were sober I would love to discuss this with him (a lie, he is more interested in argument than civil discourse and he seems less interested in truth than winning), but we are drinking and having fun. He follows up by name-dropping restaurants he wished he could be eating at right now. He asks if the Indian restaurant in town would still be open (solely to point out he likes Indian food), which of course it is not as it is 2:00am in the damn morning.
Pretentious Man is not limited to academic and fancy restaurants. He also must for some reason describe his favorite places in Chicago and in England. Chicago to prove to everyone at the party he is an urbanite at heart even in Iowa, and England to show he has been abroad. I tactfully make no mention of my international travels as I refuse to play this game with him. After a while he realizes I am not playing and continuing to speak with me will not help his chances with the girls, and wanders off to continue his game.
I went back to the nice conversation I was having with some other guests, now quite pleased with myself. I was very proud that I did not rise to his bait in my inebriated state, but I was even more pleased that he was there, annoying as he was. You see, every party needs one person to fill the role of pretentious jerk, and if you cannot find them after a couple hours, you need to start worrying if YOU are the one that is filling it. He absolved me of that worry.
There are several other party roles: far-too-drunk (already filled by a random guy sleeping in the bathroom) and coming-on-far-too-heavy-to-everyone which was being filled by a loud and very drunk girl. There are many others, but those are the biggies that can screw you if you draw the short straw. Having been freed of those worries, I was able to enjoy myself the rest of the night.