It was a kind of gathering where you could go and pick lice, lice that were growing in your hair. There’s this lovely little little film called Love in the Time of Cholera where we find out about this little party that they were organizing where you take your pet cat and your cat louse and you take that back to your apartment and have a lovely little nap and then go through your clothes looking for any traces of your cat, looking for lice and finding some and then going back to your apartment. So this was kind of like that. You’d grab a louse, and you’d pick it up and take it back to your apartment, and have a nap and go out looking for lice.
Then in the 1930s and 1940s there was the petting party, which was a kind of a kind of party where you went out. You go out to meet your friends, you’d get together and go out to pick up lice and they’d then hang their own lice on your clothes. So this was a nice, pleasant kind of thing and in the late ’40s or ’50s petting parties were kind of abandoned in our social life and basically we just didn’t look at them that way anymore. If we were at a barbecue, we did not want to be there. We didn’t want to go to the gym, we didn’t want to go to the movies because that would just be an invitation to something else. We were looking for just a moment of joy, and then that’s how people found us.
This is in your book, The Secret History of Petting Parties: How They Work, Who Wants Them, Where They Are, What They Were Like, What Went Wrong.
Well, we go back and forth on the way we talk, on the content of the parties. I believe that the petting party, and how it happened, had become the most private space of all of our own homes. And that’s because the more homes you were in, the more private you became, so you went out once in a while with your friends, but you did not want to be seen together at a petting party. There was this idea that we were being introduced into a very exotic world of petting parties and we’re going to be introduced with lots of fun and lots of parties and you didn’t want to introduce that to yourself, so you stayed away. So the petting parties that people wanted to go to—because
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