I did a runner from three parties at Christmas. They were perfectly lovely parties, before you take hold of the idea that I only get invited to rubbish ones. Each was attended by an interesting mix of people that I know and some that I don’t, with tasty food, fast flowing wine and a festive fairy-lit ambiance. They were, in fact, perfect Christmas parties. And yet the latest I managed to stay to any of them was 9.45.
So why is that?
The honest answer is that I’m not sure. Every year the invitations arrive and I am delighted. I RSVP with gusto and spend time thinking about what I will wear. Sometimes I even buy new outfits especially for the occasion. I enjoy the process of getting ready, will have a glass of wine as I sit at my dressing table trying to make myself look presentable. I play party music to get me in the mood and sing along as I endeavour to apply straight eye-liner with a shaking hand (I still haven’t mastered that ‘flick’.)
You would think, that given my track record, I would start at this point in the evening, to doubt the wisdom of going. After all, it’s rather like an Agatha Christie mystery that you’ve watched so many times that the ending is almost as familiar as your name. I go to a party. I sneak away before ten. There is an inevitability to it and yet I still enjoy the preparation.
so this is how your average party goes for me.
I get ready. I tell myself that this time I am going to make a bigger effort and try to stay at least until other party goers start slip away. I arrive. I am at ease. I survey the room for who I might like to talk to – friends or strangers, I don’t mind. I grab a drink and I begin, just like everyone else.
And I can work a room. I can move from group to group, dropping myself into conversations and then sliding away to the next. I’m not shy.
When the bottle comes round a second time I offer my glass up for a refill but by then I’m starting to twitch. I will probably have spoken to most of the people that I know by this point, and possibly a few that I don’t. But now something else is beginning to settle in. Small talk-itis. I’ve had enough of catching up, swapping anecdotes about the children, the Christmases had or hoped for. I want abstract, a discussion about a concept or to dig deeper into something that another guest knows about that I don’t.
ANd what’s wrong with that?
Well, nothing! The problem is that that type of conversation only seems to arrive when the bottle has been round four times or maybe five and by then I’ve stopped drinking and am bored. But it’s not just boredom – that would be unforgivably rude. This is where my introvert tendencies kick in. Suddenly, there are too many people and it’s all a bit loud. I get boxed into corners and I start to worry that I might faint ( which I do quite often.) My heart rate begins to increase with the temperature in the room and I find myself looking at my watch and wondering if I can get out of my current conversation to my coat (strategically positioned for a speedy exit) without causing offence.
And then I’ve gone. Sometimes I don’t even tell my poor husband. I will just scarper! ( He always knows where I am and I do text him just to make sure.) Next thing I know I’m walking home in the flat shoes that I brought with me because in my heart I knew that I’d be walking home early and on my own, and another party is over.
So why do i go?
Well, because I really want to have a lovely time like everyone else. When I accept the invitation I do so in hope that this will be the one when I stay. And each time I take an early bath I disappoint myself. I would love to be the last one standing, the life and soul, the reveller still dancing as the sun comes up, spinning and swaying as if no one is watching and not caring even if they are.
But I’m not. Ever. It’s not who I am (although I might have been her once) and increasingly it is looking like I never will be.
So I have two options. I either decline all invitations and see people in social situations that suit my personality better – coffee dates, dinner with friends, that kind of thing. Or I keep accepting and hope that this time will be the one where it all comes together for me and I stay to the end.
Or I suppose there is a third option. Maybe I should just accept that I am destined to always run from parties and stop seeing that as a failing on my part. After all, I do get lots of the best bits but without the hangover!