Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Party anxiety ***updated***

***UPDATE***In case anyone thought I was exaggerating my party fears, about three or four days after I wrote this blog, I decided to cancel my upcoming birthday party. I'm not arriving in Australia until 3 days before it, I wasn't organised and the whole idea of it was making me unhappy. I'm sure I'd have had a great time once it transpired, but I was sick of my stomach being in knots leading up to that. I'll have something small and relaxed. *sighs with relief*

Parties always seem like a good idea to me when I first think of them, but as the day draws nearer, I am always left asking myself why I came up with such a dumb idea. Much like the feeling after a big night drinking, as the party approaches, remorse hits and it begs the question "What have I done?"

The last big shin dig I arranged was for my 28th birthday. I was back home in Melbourne and it seemed like an excellent chance to gather all my friends since it was often hard for me to see everyone I know during my short visits. Everything seemed to be falling into place, I talked about it for months, advised people there would be a party on January 7th (two days after my birthday) so they would keep the date free. I was even nerdy enough to make an iPod playlist months in advance. It's not as pathetic as it sounds. I was thinking about it and had the time at that moment, and I could foresee packing my bags at 3am the night before we were to leave and remembering I hadn't made the playlist and then having to add that to my endless list of things to do before departure.

It was all exciting until the serious planning began. Oh good lord, how could I come up with enough people? As it turned out, I had about 40 people show up which is a great turn out, especially so close to Christmas. Aeek or so before the party is about the time that I forsee a disaster. Even if the people turn out, will the party be any good? Will there be enough food? Will there be any wall flower people requiring special attention?

As much as I don't want to be this person, I don't want someone feeling like this as my party.

I've come to realise that I take way too much upon myself when it comes to other people having a good time. If there is any event in which I am the reason for someone being there, I just get pangs in my stomach with worry. I thought this was normal until Ag furrowed her brow and seemed puzzled by my feelings. At that 28th birthday party, the first person to arrive was a guy from my work. A great guy whom I like to talk to, but I was a bit startled to have him be the first and only one there and requiring my 100% attention until someone else arrived. Once things are underway, I'm fine, that party was great, but just before it, I'd really rather curl up into a ball and die.

And now I am just over two weeks away from another party. My 30th. I sent out a 'save the date' email and got a weak response. I'm sure most people didn't think they had to say anything, but it makes me nervous. I'm renting a chocolate fountain and karaoke machine. Sweet, merciful crap, what have I done....?

It bothers me that no matter how aware I am of my social anxieties, it does little to help them go away. On the one hand, I try to tell myself I am overreacting and people aren't judging me like I imagine. But then it isn't long until I find myself on the other end of a dull party or hearing about one. Even though these happen and people don't necessarily think poorly of the host for it, I just can't even stand for anyone to be bored on my account. I fell a tremendous responsibility if someone goes to a movie I suggested! About 10 years ago, I suggested to my sister and my friend Mark that we go see A Clockwork Orange as it was so famous as I had not seen it. In juxtaposition to my immense enjoyment of the film, my stomach was in knots, convinced those two hated it and were wondering what kind of crap I made them go see. As we walked out of the theatre, my sister said "That was great!" to which Mark replied, "I wouldn't mind seeing that again." I guess they had a better time than I did since I was the only one who was anxious the whole time. As I've said before, I need to chill the fuck out.

This anxiety extends to parties I attend, too. I worry that my standing in a corner and being a wallflower is distressing to others. If I only know a couple of people at a party, that's what I tend to do. I accompanied Steph and David to a 70s themed fondue party on Saturday while visiting them up in Seattle. I was very excited about it before hand as I'd never had fondue, which is sad given that I am a cheese enthusiast. But as we approached the door, the "What am I going to do?" feeling came over me. I reminded Stephanie of my social retardation and she told me that was fine and to go ahead and cling. I'm pretty good at it so I don't totally look like I'm tailing her. I hang back a bit so if my clingee walks away, I follow a little bit later. It's best for all involved.

'The Wallflower' by Norman Rockwell

Stephanie did her best to include me and introduced me to her friends who were almost all very nice. All but one, who is just the kind of person who keeps people like me in a state of mortal terror. We'll call her Jamie. Jamie, after being introduced to me, stuck out her hand apprehensively, and seemed to be so busy looking me up and down with scrutiny that she did not state her name after I stated mine. I had to ask. When she said "Jamie", it was cold. Soon after this painful exchange, I responded with merriment to something someone else said only to catch the sight of Jamie and a long disapproving stare at me which she obviously began when I wasn't looking at her. Just when you try to tell yourself that you are overreacting about being perceived as a dolt, you meet someone like Jamie.

When that group moved away, I asked Steph what was up with her and turns out, it isn't me after all, but her. I guess she has really low self esteem and masks it that way. She has a very pretty faced (marred only with a sour expression) but I guess her weight problem makes her hateful. Her insecurity made me feel a little sorry for her, though I can only feel so sorry for someone who compensates with nastiness. This new information on Jamie was empowering, so as we left the party, I made a point of complimenting her earrings (which were rad) and her poncho. I thought either I'll make her feel good or just make her even more mad by being un-hateable. I do love killing with kindness.

Somewhere between the Jamie incident and leaving, I found myself alone by the fondue table. This was fine as I had discovered the chocolate mint fondue so I really didn't need anybody. I then noticed two people looking through a kaleidoscope. I noticed the font on the side of the tube was in the same font as the "The Love Boat" and was about to burst in and say as much as a means of striking up a conversation, but I quickly envisioned the follow up to my outburst and resisted the urge. I could see it going down as well as if I'd said "So, did you hear the city passed an amendment to the clean water bill?" or the Rain Man ice breaker, "Are you taking any prescription medication?" I'm just so use to hanging out with people who appreciate a good font and other aesthetically pleasing things, that it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to say. When you say it to a friend who cares not for fonts, they can just shrug and you don't care because you kinda knew they didn't care anyway, you just wanted to declare it and the friend should be use to you declaring such things. But with new people, not knowing you and not ready to talk about such things with a stranger who pipes in with it, it could be pretty awkward.

Randomly, here's a picture of me with Bernie Kopel who played Dr. Adam Bricker on 'The Love Boat'.

Even when I evaluate my paranoia and discomfort in these situations as I am doing right now, my feelings don't seem unfounded or paranoid to me. If people have a bad time, sure, they can deal with it, but I just don't even want that to happen on my watch. When going to other parties, well, a few drinks always eases some tension, but it would nice if I could just eat it and NOT CARE. Ugh.

I hope I haven't painted myself in such a way that anyone reading this wont come to my parties and wont invite me to parties. I'm actually great fun, I promise! I don't need a drop of liquor to get up for karaoke! I just get a little uncomfortable sometimes... It's an internal struggle. Nothing to worry about!

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