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How to Survive Your Boss’s Birthday Party

How to Survive Your Boss’s Birthday Party

You’ve just been invited to your boss’s birthday party. On a Friday night. The invitation arrived in one of those fancy envelopes. The ones where the card stock feels like felt. You thought someone was getting married. No, it’s just his 50th birthday.

You don’t have to go. Except you kinda do. And you have to bring something. Oh, and hundred other people are going. And you just realized something. You don’t like parties anymore.

Unfortunately, you matter.

Dammit. Pack your flask. It’s gonna be a long night to forget for your antisocial ass.

A night of touching other people and posing for photos. You used to love parties. Any kind of party. What happened?

Middle age, that’s what. Probably.

So many people come. Maybe more, like so-so many. He’s even flown in friends from other cities. You had no idea this many people liked your boss. But maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re like you, somehow obligated. You’re all packed into a biggish gated garden outside your boss’s mansion-ette. OMG, did he hire a bartender? A shot or two might help wash down the night. Psych, it’s a beer and wine bar. No spirits.

Hard pass.

Because that’s the kinda boss you have. The kind that throws himself a birthday party, but won’t let you get wasted.

The kind that makes you RSVP.

It’s not that we don’t like parties. But certain kinds of parties are hard for people like us. We used to love the kinda party where we got drunk and f*cked someone. But those party days are long gone.

You sad, responsible mom.

Now you start to wonder. You’ve gone to a lot of parties. They fall into categories. So what are they?

Everyone’s just a prop here. A party favor. You can’t enjoy your drink. You have to hold it while you stand around, making small talk. You can’t even make sarcastic jokes. Later, your face aches from the smiling.

You wind up saying “congratulations” a lot, because people are only sharing their good news. It’s like your Instagram feed come to life.

If you’re clever, you can make little jokes that aren’t offensive. But then you worry, did you offend someone? No. Yes. No. Maybe. And you can’t talk to anyone for more than two minutes. They call this mingling. Which means you have the same conversation over and over again with different people. What a great way to deplete an introvert’s social battery.

See above. But there’s more. You spend as much time saying goodbye to people as you did in actual conversation.

It takes sooo long to say goodbye at a party. Goodbye. Yeah, goodbye. You have to go. Yeah, you have to…something. I don’t know. Feed your cat. Give your kid a bath. Plant some flowers. Yes, on a Friday night.

You just love gardening in the dark. Not being able to see anything makes it a real challenge.

Everyone reaches a stage of life when we don’t want to meet new people at parties anymore. We’ve already met all the people. Adding friends takes a concerted amount of energy. So you know what? Gardening in the dark actually does sound like more fun.

Oh, great. A bunch of people you don’t know. Even better, another bunch of people you’re pretty sure don’t like you. It’s not a networking event. There’s absolutely no reason for a sociopath like you to spend valuable people energy on navigating this dried up river.

But you’re here. You can’t just walk into a room full of people, say “oh shit” and then turn around to leave.

You wish you could. But you don’t.

Instead, you assume your status update party stance. But in you’re head you wonder why that person doesn’t like you. How did you piss them off? Maybe it’s all in your head. You should go say hi. You do, but it’s so loud in here. There’s a musician, and the deafening white noise of party chatter. The perfect camouflage to pretend you don’t hear someone.

The best part is you keep winding up next to the people who probably don’t like you. And you get trapped together. And you both just stare at nothing, pretending you don’t notice each other.

A friend invites you to a giant party. That sounds like fun. You’re single. You want to meet someone. You also want to show off your new outfit. You just can’t wait to get drunk enough to dance.

But wait. These people all look like they belong in the Greek village on campus. The DJ arrives. His music gives you a migraine.

You can’t find anything but vodka to drink.

Someone grabs your ass.

That’s when you realize. You’ve been tricked. All the guys here are wearing baseball caps turned around backwards. You refuse to date a guy who wears a backwards baseball cap. You sit in a corner with a bottle of vodka and wait for everyone to pass out. Then you pass out, too. Good for you. You’re really soaking up the college experience.

This party always happens when you’d normally be eating dinner. They promise food, but they’re lying. You get there, and find only hummus and vegetables. Cheese cubes. Hot wings.

Your sadistic host expects you to eat hot wings in front of other people. With your bare hands. Like a savage.

They want photos of you with buffalo sauce smeared across your cheek. How charming. No, you’re not falling for that. You’ll just suffer for an hour, and then slip out in desperate search of a Panera.

You’ve had a long day that ends with a party. You’re hungry. (See above.) And you could use a drink. The party offers both. There’s just one catch.

There’s no chairs or tables. Just one big buffet line. You arrived late, and now you’re f*cked. This party doubles as the one where everyone spends half their time waiting in line for a little bit of food. Or one drink.

You spend the other half looking for a place to sit. You keep scanning the room, because your mind refuses to give up.

You even try to sit on the floor. But eventually you get self-conscious and stand up again. Everyone else seems fine. What’s wrong with you?

You’d rather throw a party where everyone gets together to complain about their job. Because complaining about work is fun.

Especially when you’re tipsy.

These parties always produce funny stories. You actually bond over describing how much your job sucks. It’s so cathartic.

But your plus one doesn’t like these parties. Too many inside jokes. Besides, there’s always that one person who takes the complaining too seriously. They text you the next day with ideas about how to improve things. Ugh. You don’t want to improve things today. You have a hangover.

Cool Halloween parties feature clever costumes and bad decisions. They happen at night. You dress up as Harley Quinn and make out with a guy who won’t recognize you without your makeup and pigtails. Everyone lets loose. There’s a certain freedom from consequences.

Not so cool Halloween parties? They’re sponsored by your department. Everyone brings their kid. You’re not a parent yet. This sucks. You thought this was going to be a cool Halloween party. That’s when you realize, you’re starting to age out of the cool Halloween party.

Soon you won’t even dress up anymore. You’ll spend all your attention on your kid’s costume. It’s fine. You’ll use the Wednesday Addams costume. You’re a serial killer. They look like everyone else.

You’re single. There’s that guy over there. Or that girl. You keep looking at each other. One of you keeps walking up, then pretending to be distracted. And walking off.

You do this all night. Finally a friend tries to introduce you. But you both f*ck it up somehow.

Some people just can’t be. Next weekend, you meet someone else and start dating them. You have no idea why you can talk to this guy but not that guy. And you never will.

It began with high expectations. But it ends with you trying to score free drinks off a bartender, who doesn’t look amused. But you’re cute. And smart. And funny. And you owe him five bucks.

The 21st birthday is a real self-esteem booster.

You wind up going to ten bars. Because you and your friends want to show your I.D. and hear the bouncer or whoever say “Happy birthday!” But they don’t. Because they’ve seen you a hundred times.

You’re the 21st birthday girl. And they just don’t care anymore. They know you’re going to leave a shitty tip. Because you’re a college student. You’re worth negative thirty thousand dollars.

Your favorite person shows up. The party gazelle. She’s so much fun. She’s already a little drunk. Fifteen minutes later, where did she go? Oh, she’s puking. Not again…

Dammit, you wanted this chick to make that drink she makes.

The party gazelle already showed off her best dance moves at the party before yours. Now the party gazelle is lying on a bed in the back room with two friends, drinking an Ensure. She looks so pale.

Otherwise known as almost every party in your 20s. The mission gives you so much energy. Your mind sings, “Maybe tonight I’ll finally meet the one.” So you stay out too late and probably drink too much.

But you wake up at 8 am the next day and hit the gym. You’re 24 and you can recover from almost anything.

That’s the power of your desperation for human connection. The promise of a soulmate gives you superpowers. And when you finally do meet someone, what happens? You stop going to parties. Huh, interesting.

Wow, look at you with your little business cards. You just can’t wait to hand them to someone after talking to them for five minutes. There’s a great open bar at this conference event. But you can’t afford to get drunk and look unprofessional. It’s almost like they’re taunting you.

You talk to twenty people but can’t remember a single conversation later. You also experience that moment when you’re talking to someone, that moment when your brain says, “OMG this girl has no idea what she’s talking about, or “this guy’s career is headed absolutely nowhere.”

How do you get out of this jam? Okay, smile. Excuse yourself to the bathroom. Scroll Twitter for five minutes. Try to sneak back in.

Seriously, you’re not drunk. You just tripped. Your ex sees you stumble. So does his new girlfriend. They make that face. The pity face. The “I guess I ruined her life” face.

It’s also kind of smug. He thinks he’s so fantastic. His absence from your life must be too much to bear.

So you sober up and go home. You make a little pact with yourself that you’re not going to let anyone make that face at you again. Welcome to your late 20s. Time to lay the public drunkenness aside.

You’ll spend the rest of your life going to parties you’d rather not go to. Some of us prefer quiet nights these days. We find so little time to be by ourselves. We don’t want to give that time away.

And yet, we can’t have everyone thinking we’re weird. So what can we do?

First, we can show up a little late.

We can leave a little early. In fact, we can leave whenever we want. When the music gets too loud. When the conversation turns superficial and trivial. When the food runs out. When all the awards have been announced.

We can just go. We have our own lives. We don’t have to hang around just for the sake of looking normal.

We’ll network by doing a little research in advance, and introduce ourselves to the three people who matter. Not twenty.

We’ll have conversations we can actually remember. Not endless exchanges of pleasantries with acquaintances.

We can have coffee with small groups of friends. We don’t need to give up an entire Friday night for someone’s birthday party. And we don’t have to spend fifteen minutes saying goodbye to different people. We can just ghost. It’s not rude. Just practical.

How to Survive Your Boss’s Birthday Party

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