Green Grapes, White Wine

Curator and writer Dana Kopel channels the haziness, anxiety, and messiness of parties.

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life with a Glass and Oysters, c. 1640. Oil on wood (detail). Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Parties where you barely know anyone, check your phone a lot, drink a lot because drinking, getting a drink, waiting for a drink are all things you can do on your own. This isn’t going to go anywhere. Of course I got drunk at the private dinner after the gallery opening with a perfect painting, just an outline really, of an onion. And some paintings of birds, I don’t remember much else—an actual dog wandering through the gallery on its own. In Berlin, a second floor apartment with a tiny balcony on the building’s corner, darkness as if it overlooked a park. (It might have.) There was catered Thai food and a bartender pouring wine in one room, several rooms full of lots of people I didn’t recognize.

A had invited me and he was very kind, introduced me to some of those people; he knew everyone there and his almost-ex-girlfriend, whose work I loved, was eyeing me with what felt like suspicion. I think A just liked me, or respected me, because I spoke somewhat intelligently about accelerationism when we met a few weeks earlier. (I don’t do that anymore.) But that was at a studio party, where it’s small enough that no one’s unimportant.

I drank a lot of white wine at the gallerist’s dinner and messaged with H, whom I had first met in person earlier that night and whom I really wanted to think I was cool. (I hate myself for feeling this so often.) I told H about the extravagant platters of fruit scattered throughout the apartment, and he must have dared me to take some for him for later—a bunch of us had talked about meeting up, but his phone died or I had no Wi-Fi or both—because a day or two after the dinner I reached for something in my purse and pulled out a big cluster of green grapes. And I think I felt more sad about it than anything, sad and embarrassed—for not finding H after the party, for getting too drunk, for stealing the grapes, and after all that for forgetting them at the bottom of my bag.

“To your health”

Sometimes I get sick of parties; sociality becomes an imperative and I’m always disappointed when no one wants to go home with me. Or I end up trashed having sex with my friend in a bathtub at five in the morning—I’m not mad about it, but I don’t let her go down on me because drinking a lot gives me herpes outbreaks and fucks up my hormone levels. I’m too shy to go to parties sober, and I lack social capital. So I’m sick a lot.

True Love

My best friend M was in town from Australia and it’s her picture, so that’s how I remember it: We’re sitting on the wooden bench in the kitchen, up against a window. There’s a small crowd around us—it’s a small party, probably just his roommates and a few of my close friends. We’re drunk because we came from somewhere earlier, an opening maybe. There are bottles lying around on the counter and on top of the fridge, out of the frame. He’s hunched forward slightly, thin lines forming on his bare stomach; he’s naked except for a pair of black and white briefs. I’m next to him in a long brown button-up dress, which rides up to reveal most of my left thigh and makes the whole scene look kind of ’90s. I have big thighs. Both of us have our hair pulled back in tight buns. (I don’t want to give him the satisfaction now of talking about his blond hair.) He’s gripping my right arm in his hand.

The tattoo is half done by now, a shaky black outline of my stuffed toy cat. There are smears of black ink around my elbow; my hand rests limp against his inner thigh; his other hand, holding the cheap tattoo machine, is blurred in movement. I’m making a face of exaggerated pain—the needle isn’t even in my arm. I’m showing off. I’m in love. This is what’s happening in the photo M took.

We’re in this intimate space inside the party, but of course it’s porous, performative. We’re in love and we’re trashed and tattooed; we know we look like a pair of pretty ’90s fuck-up kids even though it’s 2015 and we’re both too old for that and I’m in, like, a high-level professionalizing academic program and none of those mythical vintage moments really existed anyway. But you know how you pose when you want it to look real, like a memory.

Stealing pt. II

Other things I have stolen from parties include a bottle of grape-flavored SKYY vodka and a crystal doorknob.


In Sphinx, Oulipo writer Anne Garréta’s genderless love story, the narrator, “I,” meets their lover through nightlife. A***, the beloved, dances at a cabaret in 1980s Paris. The narrator frequently stops by the cabaret (and others), before DJing at another club till morning. Moments in between, they sit together at a dark table surrounded by loud music and throngs of people. That’s the space inside the party, everything slowed down yet still invisibly threaded to its movement, its intensity. It makes me wish I were in love again—

A*** and I talked for a long time about everything under the sun. We were drunk, A*** more so than me. There was a warmth, a hint of complicity between us, which soothed the constant tension of our unfinished business. And this happy understanding, permitted by our drunkenness, was further reinforced by the illusory intensity of perception brought on by the alcohol. Leaning toward me and speaking with more abandon than usual, A*** suddenly murmured the following question: “And if we make love, will you still love me after?”

—though deep down I know I’d rather be loved than in love right now. I might be the pettiest bitch at the party.


When we break up a few months later it has everything to do with his drinking.