When I arrived at the startup house, I walked downstairs and was greeted with what looked like a basement ripe for a party I would have loved in college. The only problem was that there was no one there—seriously not one person.
There were Christmas lights lining the expanse of the basement and a few makeshift decorations: including a gravestone labeled "Hookers" with an arrow pointing down—which seemed oddly foretelling.
I checked my watch. It was 11:30, which seemed like a good time to show up to a party. Maybe I'd read that invite wrong. As I turned to go back up stairs one of the Hackers walked down. I asked him where everyone was and he showed me to a staircase at the back of the basement and directed me upstairs. I heard some music and thought that maybe the downstairs area was some sort of "screening" process, but I was let down when I reached the top of the stairs: there was just no one here.
A covered table made up the "bar" with two people behind it serving drinks to the ten to fifteen total people in the upstairs area. I sat on one of the sofas and was asked if I wanted a drink. I passed and watched. I felt like a freshman mixer: little clumps of twos and threes sipping beers watching each other, pretending to know the song that was playing. No one was dressed up. Outside the food truck served no one.
Dance Floor: Cement warehouse floor with couches lining the walls.
Shot Bar: Nope.
Food Truck: Owned by a guy that lives at the house.
Girls: Probably four total – all fully clothed.
The warehouse, to its credit, was huge.
There were two floors, one of which was completely empty.
The other was occupied by nearly 20 nerdy coder dudes looking around aimlessly, hoping the whole "girl" promise was actually going to come through. By midnight the place was bumpin' with the latest top 40 tunes coming out of someone's Mac and hooked up to a speaker. It felt like that college frat party on the outskirts of town people say they'll hit up if the other 12 parties happening on campus that night totally suck. Things were clearly pretty dry, but the guy who threw the party—James Blocho—was dressed in full drag and happy to run his mouth about how "stupid" the media is being for blowing this out of proportion. "See," he argued, "I dressed up as a HOOKER!"
James (who was hoping to be called Jessica throughout the night) continued: "Of course pretty girls make more money, it's just the law of attraction." Blocho also gladly explained about how his co-conspirator in the party planning was a female, and, according to Blocho, his legal wife and Stanford employee. She'd quit after news of the party came out. Blocho was disheartened by the fact that she had to quit their venture managing the co-working space for techies and start-uppers (which seems more like a scam than anything).
As Blocho cavorted around the party in heels and fishnets, everyone else (all 20 of them) chatted in small groups. "You're making a shit-ton more money than we are," Blocho said to me, seeming to think that because his last job was occupied by 25 people, 4 of whom were men, that women are "taking over the world." His reasoning? "Women complain to their brothers and boyfriends instead of the boss." People stared at him before dismissing his threaded eyebrows and "hooker" makeup job. "There were like 134 women that signed up for this thing," he said. "I thought they were all going to come after me." I left after James cornered me on the couch, around 1 in the morning. It was clear no one else who'd signed up was coming.
Maeghan Ouimet is a writer in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Inc., Boston Magazine, and Rolling Stone Australia.