My best friend just made it into their dream graduate program. And when I say dream, I mean dream. She’s going to Oxford (aka Real-Life Hogwarts) to study particle physics (aka Real-Life Wizardry). I want to throw her the most amazing going-away party imaginable. I volunteered to host her party at my house—I have the only place big enough—and everyone in our friend group wants it to be HP themed. The only problem is… I’ve never read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies. I know. I missed the formative stories of our generation (she’s all about it). And I feel a little weird about doing a Harry Potter theme for her. I want the party to be about her and her achievements, not an excuse for a crowd of people who are fans of this thing to get together and geek out. I could watch the movies and read the books, but I still think we should be celebrating her. What do you think I should do? Should I put my foot down and say, “no this isn’t the theme,” or should I go with it?
You haven’t seen Harry Potter? That’s a travesty!
In all seriousness, you should watch the movies and/or read the books. They’re lots of fun! Sure, the fandom gets a little intense at times, but that’s true of anything. I’m sure they had an important part to play in your friend’s life, too, so you should read at least one to get to know her better. She is lucky to have a friend like you who cares about her enough to celebrate her achievements.
If you have not caught the Harry Potter bug, you never will, or you just haven’t had time. Nobody forces fandom on to anybody else. It seems like your other friends are making an imposition on you. They are, and you have the right to feel that way. You are playing host. No easy feat!
Here’s our recommendation: don’t quash your friend group’s enthusiasm. Harness it. This means that you should communicate to them that you’re not familiar with Harry Potter. Put the onus on them to teach you, not on yourself to learn. Conscript them to help you throw the party (turn them into your house elves). Bring out a “magic wand” (better known as a confetti cannon), and set up a quidditch turf in your yard, if you have the room. If that’s what they want, give it to them, and the best way to harness their energy is by being honest with them. People love explaining the things that they love.
Being honest encompasses the second part of your question: you want to make sure the party is about your friend. Make that clear to your house elves. You have plenty of options to personalize a party. I’m sure that once you make it clear to your friends they will join you in making it all about her.
Things often get stressful when other people don’t seem to be “going with the flow,” but sometimes that means that we must go with the flow ourselves. The crux of achieving that is being honest not only with the people around us, but also ourselves. You want this party to be about her. To do that, you must agree to relinquish control. That’s not as hard as getting into Oxford, but it is still tough, and the earlier you learn to do that, the better off you will be. If you want to throw a real, magical party for your wizard (erm, budding particle physicist) friend, consider this: there are lots of magic words in the Harry Potter universe (Wingardium Leviosa! Lumos! Expelliarmus!), but perhaps the most magical words in our universe are “yes! And…” Clever ideas beget clever ideas; it’s just a matter of saying yes to them.
“What’s coming will come, and we’ll meet it when it does.” – Hagrid, Harry Potter