We all dream of getting an invitation to ‘that party’. For me, these invitations are getting thinner on the grounds these days. Perhaps because my dream party would be quietly working on jigsaw puzzles with a refreshing glass of Baileys on ice and the soft murmur and swish of rifling cardboard pieces.
But the Gatsby parties were seriously astonishing. If you’ve seen the film, director extraordinaire Baz Luhrmann has concocted the most precocious and sensational social antics I could ever imagine. Woven together with music produced by Jay-Z, it’s a nerve-tingling sensory overload. And I loved every minute of it. All the pretty people, cool beats, mouth-watering fashion and fun, fun, fun. Never mind the mess to clean up in the morning, the smell of rancid vomit and lost property up to your eyeballs. It’s all glitter NOW.
What were the partiers chasing? What’s the thrill involved? Were they looking for amusement from their banal daily lives? Were they taking risks because social barriers were crumbling? Perhaps they were frantically trying to be seen to be glamorous, to bury their insecurities under a mountain of champagne bubbles? Maybe they just knew how to really enjoy themselves.
There is something appealing about being a member of the elite, a sense of achievement and superiority perhaps? Or never having to worry about anything because there are people to take care of everything if you’re willing to throw enough money at them. But there is a cautionary tale in The Great Gatsby parties if you peel back enough layers of glamour.
For me, the stark aloneness of Gatsby at his funeral felt the most real part of the whole story. Lana Del Ray sang “will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful”? For Gatsby, the answer was obviously no (excepting Nick Carraway). He spent his entire life striving for approval from society and love from Daisy at the most extreme cost.
It’s the stuff of my nightmares to have an unattended funeral. What would I have to sacrifice to burn that many bridges or develop that much mistrust with my acquaintances? I would much rather develop healthy, deep and loving friendships than don a cute frock and haunt parties just ‘to be seen’. Despite Gatsby’s charm and exuberant confidence, lavish parties and myriad of connections, he was a stranger.
Give me an intimate dinner party, a family picnic, a birthday celebration, a shared grief that draws us closer, I would rather get to know someone than dance beside them.
So maybe I should put away the box of puzzle pieces and head out into the real world.
Katy Berkley, Church of the Saviour, Blockhouse Bay