Party Girl.

Did you know that Mr. Magpie drove a boxy black Jeep Cherokee (not the Grand — the O.G., whose style I still love; why don’t they bring that back?!) that he nicknamed “Party Girl”? She was a rough and tumble kind of ride. To accelerate, you actually had to depress the pedal almost all the way to the metal, golf-cart-style, and you could feel every bump and divot in the road. The interior felt like the inside of a tin can — no frills, always cool, with a kind of reverberating emptiness to it. It was not, in any case, a gracious ride.

But I loved Party Girl–so much so that I cried when Mr. Magpie sold her just before we moved to Chicago. We reasoned (correctly) that we did not need two cars, and Party Girl was getting old and rather mouthy anyhow.

But Party Girl was a part of Mr. Magpie’s mystique when I first met and fell in love with him. She was his perfect complement. It was almost as if Mattel had designed Mr. Magpie and, duh, Party Girl was his obvious whip. There was something outdoorsy and sporty about her — especially with the ski rack he affixed to the roof — and yet the absurd stereo and subwoofers he’d added to the interior let you know he liked his music, and he liked it loud, and Party Girl was there to bring it. She wasn’t as self-aware and bro-tastic as a roofless Wrangler, or as distasteful and flashy as a Hummer, or as showy and glossy as a luxury SUV — all cars frat brothers parked on Rugby Road –but it felt like she might be loose and accidental friends with them, like she could hang with them if she wanted, but she was too busy going offroading and listening to Van Morrison.

This all tracked with a young Mr. Magpie, who was a “GDI” in UVA Greek terms: a God Damn Independent. He rushed and was well-liked and received a bid but did not pledge anywhere. “It wasn’t for me,” he shrugged. And that was that. His indifference on this matter was as appealing then as it is now: he was his own person, even at 20, when most of us are engrossed in the meticulous construction and presentation of our fluid and uncertain selves so as to fit in and make friends.

He was him, though, a tall drink of water who shopped at the Harris Teeter at 10:30 p.m. on Monday nights, buying Rao’s tomato sauce in duplicate when on sale and full-fat yogurt and cases of Heineken and, one evening, a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade for yours truly. I remember him careening up the access road to New Dorms, where all the dorks (including myself) lived, the bass reverberating through the brick of the hideous motel-style dorm building (Maupin, in case you care), and I stood on the second floor watching him in the dark, under the beam of floodlights, absolutely thrilled with myself for inveigling him into buying me booze and bringing it to straight to my dorm room for all of my suitemates to see.

Oh, but oh! I will never forget how handsome he was. How I felt a shiver of excitement thinking that he was parking his car and ascending the stairs for me, that someone on my hall might possibly assume him to be mine, that he might — I could hardly let myself believe it — be interested in me? This little brunette in Maupin — me?! An academically-minded girl who had never had an actual boyfriend? Who had not too long ago been riddled with braces and acne and that unkind fleshiness of pubescence? Who had just recently discovered how to blow dry her long hair stick straight and wear too-short denim skirts and too-tight, padded spaghetti strap tanks and platform flip-flops in what I can only describe as an homage to Jennifer Love Hewitt? Who still liked to bake cupcakes and lick the frosting right out of the can and watch movies with girlfriends on the weekends? Me? When he had the entirety of UVA, including classes older than mine? When he was just about the most beautiful person I’d ever seen in real life, with his golden hair and straight teeth and strong nose and broad shoulders and tanned arms and —

He smiled broadly at me, a brown paper bag extended toward me.

I remember trying to stall him, desperately wanting to keep him close to me. But it was late on a Monday and he had engineering classes that started at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Party Girl was illegally parked, and as I watched him stroll back to his car, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I wanted someone in my suite to comment on him. I was already devising what I might write to him over instant message. I wondered how I could con him into seeing me again soon. As he was climbing into his Jeep, he paused, leaning his forearms on the top of the door, and looked up at me. He stood there for a half second, then smiled and did a funny little wave salute before disappearing inside the car, the bass kicking back in, the engine revving.

I always wondered at that hesitation, a half-pause that left me electric with possibilities. Was he going to say something romantic? Or practical? Or saucy? Was he debating an invitation to his place?

But that’s Mr. Magpie, through and through — then and now. Always a hint of the unknown and unexpected. Like Party Girl, herself a kind of rogue sporty-but-not presence parked for a few minutes one Monday night outside of my dorm, his foil and ferry.

P.S. More on Mr. Magpie back then.

Post Scripts.

I actually sat down to share some party decor/supply ideas (I’ve received a few questions along these lines recently) and the foregoing just tumbled out. And so I’m sitting here in a deep haze of nostalgia, half-inclined to jump on the 1 train to surprise him at lunch. But I’ll leave some party supply ideas for ya nonetheless. Below, some of my favorite accoutrements for throwing a party at home…

GALVANIZED METAL PARTY BUCKET WITH STAND

SILVER BUTLER’S TRAY

ELEGANT INVITATIONS

ICE BUCKET AND TONGS

CASPARI PAPER NAPKINS OR (FANCIER) LINEN MONOGRAMMED NAPKINS

SILVER CONDIMENT CADDY (I LIKE TO USE THIS TO PUT OUT A TRIO OF SNACKS BY THE BAR — NUTS, CHIPS, HOMEMADE CHEX MIX)

MONOGRAM FROSTED CUPS

APPETIZER PLATES FOR FINGER FOOD (INEXPENSIVE AND NON-PRECIOUS BUT SHOW FOOD WELL — THE PERFECT SIZE, TOO)

SCALLOPED PAPER PLATES OR BAMBOO ONES IF HOSTING A BIG PARTY

PAPER STRAWS

PERSONALIZED HOT/COLD CUPS

PROBABLY OUR MOST-USED PIECE OF SERVEWARE — AND IT’S $13! BUY MULTIPLES!

FOR EXTRA FUN OCCASIONS: CONFETTI, BALLOON LETTERS, OR MINI PINATAS

MILK BAR CAKE

PRETTY CAKE STAND (ON SALE!!!)

PUNCH BOWL

INDIA AMORY TABLECLOTH

SNACK BOWLS

PRETTY SCALLOPED SERVING DISH ($25!)

CASPARI TAPERS

YETI COOLER

Speaking of parties, some dresses I’d love to wear to a festive occasion:

THIS ASYMMETRICAL BEAUTY

THIS RHODE RESORT

MY STAUD TOILE

THIS FREE PEOPLE FLORAL

THIS BOLD ULLA

ZIMMERMANN PLAYSUIT

16 Comments

  1. This is such a sweet post. I had a Jeep Cherokee for a time in college (a 1996 model; super boxy!), and man, did it make me feel cooler than I was! Those vibes exist, to be sure.

    Thinking back to college attire (we were the same year, I think) — CRINGE. So much awkward denim (both in cut and in wash); so many spaghetti straps (or worse, tube tops) and the platform flip flops! Terrible. Haha!

    xx

  2. Jen!! This post is such a beautiful walk down memory lane. Thank you for taking us along! My husband and I were both GDI’s at the very-very-Greek Bucknell, so that reference made me smile 🙂 Also—Mike’s Hard! I remember the first time I went to my husband’s parents’ house, they had procured a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard, just for me. Hahaha. 🙂

    1. Ahh!! Do they still make Mike’s Hard? I actually can’t imagine drinking it now…but such strong memories! xx

  3. Oh I just adore this post so much! I’m picturing you two and at the same time my husband and I when we met in college! Oh those memories are so delicious to sink into! Remembering that feeling of him waiting outside my dorm and the pride in someone associating him with me?!! He had a giant SUV with subs also ha! Oh how fun I should do this more often, remembering that the man I can’t wait to come home (he’s currently stuck at LaGuardia) to relieve me with the kids some and tell me about his healthcare deal etc used to elicit such excitement (and should still but you know, over a decade has gone by!).

    Oh and the mini skirts and spaghetti straps! Ha! I remember such relief when my husband confessed he by far preferred lilly shorts and a Ralph Lauren button down on me ha!

    Thank you again for sending me down memory lane! (He was also a GDI when we met, and joined a frat mostly I think to letter me ha! But it was never really him)

    1. !! Sounds like we had really similar (special!) college sweetheart relationships. So fun to reminisce…ahh we were so footloose and fancy-free…

  4. I am an editor and writer. I love language and words, but especially short, perfect, phrasing. It’s one of the reasons I read your blog on a daily basis. I visit to revel in your mastery of the language. (Unfortunately, I write for a very technical, and what could be called a dry industry, so I don’t often get the chance to be too creative.) When I read the phrase, “…his foil and ferry,” I immediately got the best chills down my spine.

  5. Oh man, that car. My tennis doubles partner in high school, who was the most stylish person I had ever met at that point, had the silver version of it. Once the roster was set and we were partnered up, she offered to drive me home from practice in it everyday. I felt so cool to be riding with her! A little freshman riding with such a stylish upperclassman.

    She was a high school girl version of a GDI. Never followed trends or tried to fake a personality. Just innately cool. Has to be a Party Girl thing.

  6. My husband was a GDI too and having dated several fraternity boys before him, I couldn’t have been more excited to meet someone who didn’t buy into that culture. I still loved my experience in a sorority at UVa but it comes with some ambivalence to the exclusionary practice.

    1. I hear you – I have mixed feelings on Greek life. On the one hand, I liked being in a club with other women, as I had also attended an all-girls high school and there was something very comforting about it. I also was a little shy my first year and being in a sorority gave me a “home” and a group of people that I felt automatically connected to and safe with. But, there is so much not to like about it, too. I will probably let Emory forge her on path and make up her own mind on it without pushing her one way or the other because I see a lot of pros and cons. xx

    2. I feel similarly about my sorority experience. I was shy too and appreciated the bonds as a freshmen especially. By the end of my time there I was over it and really have never been involved as an alumni.

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