Monday, December 12, 2005

party fallout

Dateline: 9AM, 12/12, DC time.

The Korean women's society Christmas party is history. It took a lot of work, too: I basically had to write Mom's speech as well as craft my own presentation. Mom had to make dozens of calls and deal with last-minute changes; Dad was conscripted to help Mom as proofreader and delivery man. Mom, who seems to have trouble delegating tasks because her perfectionism keeps her from trusting people fully (a trait I've inherited), gave most of the pre-party tasks to her family and inner circle, and did a ton of work herself.

I think I was a pretty lame emcee last night, but people told the society president-- my mother this time around-- that this was the best party ever-- it ran smoothly and people felt comfortable. I got a lot of comments along the lines of, "Last year's party was a disaster! Can we have you as emcee every year?"

From my standpoint, this party wasn't as good as the one in 2003: we started 25 minutes late and pretty much ignored the schedule as we moved from event to event. Our featured musician, who was supposed to arrive at 6PM when the party began, arrived at 6:30 and didn't get fully set up until 6:45 (to his credit, he did apologize). Guests took their sweet time arriving, and the society officers, already nervous and tense, asked me to hold off until "we have more people." One of the officers suddenly decided to screw with the table arrangements, which had been set up weeks in advance: 8-to-a-table became 10-to-a-table in many cases. Some of the guests' printed name tags went missing. The two prize drawings we were supposed to have suddenly turned into three drawings, and they didn't occur at the scheduled times. One joke I told during the proceedings fell absolutely flat, and I spoke barely any Korean (a fact that seems to have disappointed my dad; I spoke a lot of Korean while emceeing in 2003). Like I said, this wasn't the best party, and I spent much of the evening feeling rather annoyed.

Part of the reason for not speaking Korean was that I'm still somewhat jet-lagged. Getting tired at 10PM isn't normal for me: as a creature of the night, I'm used to going to sleep around 4AM when on vacation.

But many of the members reported satisfaction. Mom's society still doesn't have a web presence, but I'm hoping that they'll get to work on that.

One odd thing about this party: of the 110 people who showed up, only two or three (aside from yours truly) were under 40. That, folks, is very odd*, and I take it to be a statement about the generational and cultural gap in the greater Washington Korean community: the Americanized young'ns don't feel the same need to bond with the rest of the Korean community through events like this (there are several Korean societies in the DC-Metro area); they probably think they have something better to do. Can't say I blame them: the party, as conceived and structured, has an over-50 target demographic.

I was touched to see how hard Mom worked at the speech I gave her. It was composed by me, yes, but it was filled with her ideas. Mom's a very good leader, but she quails at the prospect of public speaking, especially in English. Nevertheless, she took the time to read through her speech several times, ironing out pronunciation problems, learning how to focus and relax. When I beckoned her to the podium to give her speech, she did it well.

Our featured speaker-- aside from Mom-- was an official (I don't want to say who) from the South Korean Consulate. Nice guy, but he strongly reminded me of the gay Vietnamese restaurant owner in "Good Morning, Vietnam." His speech was met by raucous laughter. It was immediately after his speech that my own joke, riffing on what he'd said, fell flat. D'oh.

I don't want to dwell on what went wrong, though: things also went right. I'm pretty good about adapting to new situations; it's one reason why I tend to overplan: I'm always prepared for any contingency. The fact that the society officers accepted my idea of rescheduling events to allow for an uninterrupted dinner-- that was a major coup. I kind of hope the society will keep that format for future dinner parties. One thing I can't stand is people talking during a speech, and the problem with serving dinner while a speaker is at the podium is that people either have to turn away from their food to listen, or simply ignore the speaker to concentrate on their food and dinner companions. That's messy, awkward, and unprofessional. Get the speeches over with quickly, I say, and let people eat and get drunk in peace.

In truth, because we started late and the schedule was screwed up, we did have to interrupt dinner to begin the next activity (Christmas carols), but the interruption didn't occur until the tail end of dinner, and while caroling takes you temporarily away from your food, it doesn't force you to compete with someone making a speech.

I assume there were complaints when the night was done. How could there not be in a society comprised almost entirely of adjummas, eh?

But praise Jesus it's over.

*You can normally expect Korean mothers to drag their Komerican children to the annual Christmas party... the kids must be getting more adept at resisting that fabled "adjumma power."


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