In a city of sensory overload, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Take noisy bars, for instance. Most people go to bars to meet prospective dates or socialize with friends. If you can hardly hear yourself speak, what's the point? Take away the loud music, the TVs and screaming drunks and you are left with a group of people carrying on conversations without spitting in someone's ear. Now take away the cell phones and the loud talking and you have the concept of Quiet Party , an event started by two artistic guys, Paul Rebhan and Tony Noe, who were sick of all the damn noise and wanted to create a space where yelling was not allowed and even an area where talking was prohibited. Guests are provided with paper and pens and as the creators say, "Once this playful foundation mixes with a little alcohol, inhibitions disappear and notes begin to fly."
The Quiet Party I attended was upstairs at Madame X, a sensual West Village bar that has a 1920s bordello feel, with plush red velvet antique loveseats, red-fringed lamps and black and white photos of nude women drawing attention to the walls. I bought a drink and within seconds, someone handed me a card. It said, Hello, is this your first time at Quiet Party? I replied and soon cards were coming at me from all directions.
My Quiet Party expectations were dashed in a pile of uninspiring remarks. I anticipated more body language and charade-like behavior. Instead I was disappointed when several men handed me cards without making the slightest eye contact. After they had passed on their words, they went right back to scribbling. One dorky guy gave me a card that said, Hello. I replied, Do you really need a card to say that?? No, just a sense of humor, he wrote. Ha Ha. Needless to say, that was the end of our exchange.
One woman would hand a note to a guy, turn around and return to her seat, then repeat the action with another guy, like a secretary distributing newsletters. I imagine she was on a mission to find a man and she was just throwing her wares to the wind, but because her manner was so business-like, I don't see how she could have intrigued anyone.
It seemed that the cards were substitutes for computers and cell phones. People could hide behind them just as they hide behind an e-mail or a text message. Maybe this is why there was so little eye contact; technology allows us to avoid face-to-face rejection. The cards do erase inhibitions, but they also open up the door to embarrassment about writing something that you might not have the courage to speak. Something like, Has a guy ever danced privately for you?
The guy who wrote this to me was so obviously on the prowl; he even showed me a personal ad he had written. (Whether he wrote it for the party, I don't know.) It seemed that a lot of people, especially men, were singles looking to pick someone up. I was not the only one feeling out of place, and when I migrated to the bar, where talking at a low volume was permitted, I found two women sitting in an alcove large enough for three. I joined their cozy hideaway, and they admitted they were hiding from the men. They didn't know it was a singles party. Neither did I.
After a whispery chat with the girls, I meandered into another silent area where I sank into a leopard beanbag. The party became more interesting and creative as the night wore on. An attractive, aging hipster wearing rose-tinted glasses wrote to me, Hi, there. You stand out here. (Thanks. How so?) Stylishly lowbrow, artistically inclined, downtownish. At the same time, a different guy gave me a card that said, Just a "hello" from a Quiet Party virgin, to which I responded, Where are the QP sluts?
I had fun with yet another guy who agreed that people were writing too much. I flaunted my rebellion by ripping up a card and tossing the pieces in the air, before we indulged in a game of charades and pen fencing. Later on, we gave each other shoulder massages, which was the most physical contact I observed all night.
The Quiet Party is, at the very least, a novel social experience. Rebhan and Noe have done more than create an alternative singles scene (which was not their intent, Noe told me later; it just happens to attract singles) and have invented an interesting experiment in human behavior. When people are robbed of one of their senses, strange things happen. Toward the end of the party, a girl passed out cards that said, It's hot. Let's get naked. Unfortunately, everybody kept their clothes on. But would she have screamed those words in a noisy bar? I doubt it. »