Last Wednesday, Nick Halloran, a 26-year-old copywriter at the advertising agency JWT, sent out an email about his upcoming farewell party. He didn’t think twice about giving his invitees—a carefully cultivated list of co-workers, college buddies, ex-girlfriends, women he’d slept with two or more times, bassists, and writers with whom he’d corresponded but never actually met in person—detailed instructions on just how the day would go.
“I’m saying farewell to one Hill (Cobble) and hello to another (Chapel, where I’ll be starting a grad program in folklore at UNC). So it’s your last chance to hang out with me! (Sniff!) We’ll start in the Long Meadow in Prospect Park,” he wrote. “If anyone has a petanque set, please bring it! Frisbees, dogs, kickballs, whiffleballs, badminton, &c also welcome! And of course, please bring something to throw on the grill, and some beer (Brooklyn Lager if you want me to get sentimental!).
“Later that evening, we’ll make our way over to Frankie’s on Court Street. We’ll probably have to wait, so I suggest you DEFINITELY bring something to eat at the park!
“Lastly, we’ll end the evening at either Brooklyn Social or the Brooklyn Inn—please text me to find out exactly where we are if you’ll just be joining us then!”
When Mindy Miller opened the email, she rolled her eyes. “I’ve met this guy Nick a few times—he’s friends with my friends Matt and Jen,” she told a reporter. “I think we smoked pot together once or twice? But he’s not, like, my best friend! Also he was totally rude to my friend Meredith—he just totally stopped calling her after they hooked up a few times.”
But it wasn’t the degree of Mr. Halloran’s friendship that really bothered Ms. Miller.
“To be honest, the real reason why I don’t think I’ll go to his party is that I just don’t think I have the energy,” said the 28-year-old nonprofit development coordinator. “I mean, petanque, then dinner, then drinks? That’s asking a lot.”
Ms. Miller said that lately, she’s been invited to more and more events where the party-thrower expects their guests’ attention for hours and hours. “I just find it all very narcissistic,” said Ms. Miller. “What ever happened to just having people over to your apartment for a couple beers?”
Certainly, multi-stage parties are hardly the exclusive purview of the young urban bourgeois; wealthy parents on the East and West coasts have been throwing elaborate events for their children for years. (Witness the influence of television shows such as My Super Sweet Sixteen, in which the birthday girl or boy can have three or more costume changes in one evening.) But this particular brand of party-throwing—in which the attendees are asked to, in effect, pay their own way through hours of honoring their friends—seems to be uniquely “Millenial” phenomenon.
“Generation Y, or Millenials, are an incredibly self-absorbed population,” said Robert E. Jenkins, professor of sociology at the University of South Calgary. Dr. Jenkins is currently working on a book about the party habits of people under 30. “In my research, I have found that most young people expect their friends to spend an average of $47 and five hours on them for each Milestone Occasion—birthday, going-away party, et cetera. Perhaps surprisingly, most of their friends comply, perhaps because they expect reciprocity when their turn comes along.”
But don’t try telling that to Ms. Miller. “I think I might just stay home for awhile,” she said.