November 12, 2006

Joanna is my most social friend. As an editor of a magazine in New York, she gets invited to a lot of fancy parties and benefits.

When she was married, she didn't have to think about who to bring, because her husband was her automatic "plus one". But recently she was separated. This opened the floodgates for the plus-one slot. Now the world is her oyster. She can have any plus-one she chooses. So how come she never chooses me?

"You're never around," she said. "And when you are, you hate going out." That's true. But it doesn't mean that I don't want to be asked. Especially when it's to the benefits.

A plus-one to a benefit has a lot more impact than a plus-one to a party or movie premiere. There's something incredibly satisfying about not paying hundreds of dollars and mingling with people who have.

Which is why, when I found out that Joanna had asked Mallery to be her plus-one at the Spelling Bee benefit, I had to speak up. It was a chance to watch literary quasi-celebs humiliate themselves. Who would want to pass that up?

"I was afraid this would happen," she said sympathetically. "That's why I wasn't going to tell you about it."

I'm not sure how I was supposed to be comforted by that. So, in an effort to make myself feel better, I began to think of all the reasons being a plus-one isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

There's the feeling that you're an imposter - an undercurrent of anguish; knowing you're only there because of someone else's connections and clout. Whenever I'm asked to be a plus-one, it's kind of a melancholy victory. On one hand I'm flattered, but on the other, I feel like a loser. I can't help but wonder if I'm destined to always be the plus-one and never "the one".

But even worse than being a plus one is being a former plus-one. There's a hierarchy to deciding who will be chosen, and once you lose your place in the pecking order - as I have - it's hard to make a comeback. Because the next time that Mallery has something fun to go to, she'll choose Joanna in return. Which means that Joanna invariably has others waiting - ahead of me - who she has to pay back for having invited her to something previously. The only way I'll ever get to be a plus-one now is if everyone else has the flu.

The problem is, I don't get invited to enough events and parties to maintain my plus-one standing. Which means I have to rely on people simply enjoying and wanting the pleasure of my company. Doesn't bode well.

The one time I did get invited to a glamorous benefit, it was a fiasco. It was an event organised in New York, and weeks in advance I called Joanna to see if she wanted to be my plus-one. She declined. She had something else that night she couldn't get out of.

So I asked Liza. Did she want to be my plus-one? She couldn't make it, either. She had to work. After that, I didn't know who to call. If you don't owe someone an invite, and you can't get a close friend to join you, it's better to go alone. Which is what I did. My only plus-one - and I couldn't fill it. Which I guess makes me a minus-one.