A couple of months ago, a dear friend of mine had surgery on one of her knees. It left her largely housebound and on bed rest for an extended period. I called her one day to check in, and asked her how she had been keeping herself amused. Here is a rough approximation of the conversation that followed:
Her: "I've got super into watching Pearl Parties."
Me: "What's a Pearl Party? Is it porn?"
Her: "No! It’s like gambling, but with pearls. There's only one lady I really like to watch open the oysters, but there are tons of them."
Me: "Wait. There are actual oysters involved?"
Her: "Totally. She opens the oysters and inside there are pearls that have all been dyed different colors."
Me: "And then what?"
Her: "Nothing. That's it."
Me: "But... what's the point?"
Her: "Okay, so it’s like $25 to buy one oyster, or you 'game pay' to play games and win the oysters and bags and necklaces and things."
Me: "Necklaces and things?"
Her: "Yeah. Necklaces you put the pearls into, which you can win in the games as well. The one lady I really like also does these mystery tote bags for all genders and ages. It’s a whole operation."
Me: "This makes absolutely no sense."
Her: "It does to her. I'm pretty sure she makes crazy-good money doing this."
Two days later, my friend sent me a link to a live show, with a note attached: "Okay, here's my favorite Pearl Party host," she wrote. "She really is a very cool, chill person. And she goes on for hours -- until 3 or 4 in the morning."
Turns out, my pal's favorite Pearl Party is Keeping it Real in New Jersey. The show she directed me to was Shakespearean long (three and a half hours) and featured a suburban woman named Ana, sitting in a crafting room, interacting warmly with her viewers, while games were played and oysters were opened.
For most of the live video, Ana chatted about whatever came up in the comments -- "fur babies," her viewers' physical ailments ("I hope your back gets better fast!"), the weather ("Oh no, snowing 4 to 5 inches an hour, Barbara!"), and, inevitably, pearls, which were greeted rapturously by viewers (“Beautiful colors”; “Oh my those gorgeous matallic [sic] pinks in the front Amy”). Voices and dogs were frequently heard in the background, and family members interrupted. When things got quiet for a few seconds in the comments, Ana filled the time singing snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Loretta Lynn.