A friend, watching television in England, reported that a week-long series of instructions on jujitsu ended with a three-minute demonstration on how to cope with the Party Pest.
Smack! The instructor's right elbow smashed into his chest. Smack! again, this time with the left elbow, and the Party Pest staggered off to the other side of the room.
An extreme solution, perhaps, to a vexing social situation, but there are many victims who would have applauded. In most circumstances, however, the use of violence in the drawing room is frowned upon and one must develop more creative ways of coping.
One problem, of course, is that Party Pests come in so many varieties. The most common is the Bore, who may inflict himself on one person or skewer an entire group. Bore, the kind who can make an entire group of people glaze over, has learned how to breathe between syllables. He knows that to pause between words is to risk interruption. Unless there is a guest bold enough to march smack into the middle of the monologue, the Master Bore will hold the floor for the entire evening -- a short evening as the guests realize that the only route of escape is out the door.
The solution requires a sacrificial victim. The host can insist that the services of the bore are needed immediately -- in the kitchen to carve, in the living room to revive a dying fire, in the cellar to choose a proper wine. The Master Bore will respond to any of these calls for help, since the same sense of importance that leads him to believe the guests are dying to hear his every thought will also convince him that he is an expert on carving, fires or wine.
The Big Game Hunter is another pest frequently encountered in Washington. She is given to tracking social lions, and will hover on the edge of any group containing a famous person. an acquaintance, reminding the lion of how they met on such and such an occasion.
But social lions are fairly adept at attacking hunters. One famous TV personality, approached by a young man who prattled on about a string of mutual acquaintances and shared events, studied the man's face for a minute, gave a faint shake of his head and let his eyes wander around the room. Without saying a word, he had bested his stalker.
Another party pest is the Competitive Cook, who will take a bite of whatever is being served and then volunteer the information that he has a much better recipe for the same dish and offer to provide it. Such kindness may want to make the host kill, but it is much wiser to respond with gratitude and a request for several copies of the recipe. Do not let the Competitive Cook off the hook. Follow up, demanding copies until they are provided. When next you see him, say apologetically, "It was so kind of you to offer your recipe and I tried it but . . . perhaps you left something out?" The same tactic can be used on the Wine Bore, who tastes your wine and immediately offers you the name of a better one. At your next dinner, explain to her that you tried her wine, but "I think the case we bought had turned. I know you would never have recommended anything that tasted like that."
There are party pests who clog up receiving lines, launching into long, involved stories while people wait impatiently behind; there are pests who insist on picking fights with half the people at the party; there are those who think that if they leave before dawn you won't believe that they had a good time, there are . . . Smack! with the right elbow. Smack! with the left. It sounds better all the time.