Bring Your Own Lampshade, Somewhere There's a Party / by vanessa

Though my therapist might correct with me with a more clinically accurate affliction, I have social anxiety.  Whatever it's called, I have a wicked fear of gatherings where I'll be forced to talk to people that I either a) don't know, b) don't know very well, or c) would rather not know.   The whole situation will be terribly awkward, terribly slow for everyone involved (with me), and I will be revealed for the terrible dolt that I am can be.  I picture it clearly in anticipation:  I'm at a _____ party, fidgeting alone next to the lonely Doritos.  I don't even eat Doritos, until now, when I down them by the fistful because it makes me look like I have purpose.  I scan the room and everyone in the world is having a brilliant time --  I mean, deeply engaged -- because they're all world-class conversationalists by day / prolific artists by night, and jesus, I guess I should make conversation too.  I search furtively for someone to talk with, anyone really, and eventually I lock in on the girl next to me who makes the tragic mistake of eye contact. "You look very French," she says first.

F*ck.  Was that a compliment?  Maybe she hates French people?  It can't be a compliment to say you look like a nationality, can it?  I mean, I think it's a compliment, but how can you be sure about these things?  What if instead of French she said Russian?   Would that be good?

"Oh, 'cause I'm Italian,"  I reply.   Crap.  Another one bites the dust.

And that's when somewhere in the room a record needle screeches across vinyl, and the whole room looks over at me in unison with a metaphorically-audible, "Who invited her?"  At that moment I long for my goddamned iPhone.

Yet parties are a fact of life, and I really do want to support my friends, and well, I can't hide forever.  I suppose I could lie -- I'm sorry for the last minute cancellation, my aunt is really sick!  Believe me, if I felt good about lying, I would.  But because I do my best to lead the generally honest life, I avoid saying things that I know to be untrue, even when it means I'll be horribly uncomfortable.  And so, despite my social ineptitude, I accept the invitations sans witty Evite replies.  To cope, I have developed a smile the size of a small rodent, which serves the dual purpose of feigning interest, while buying me time to think of something clever to ask or say.

This has all been to tell you that I deserve a lifetime achievement award for attending multiple -- okay, two -- parties this weekend.   To boot, they were for a 1 year-old's birthday and a baby shower, respectively -- two demographics that I'm only tangentially connected to by virtue of having been a 1 year-old myself at some point, and also for having known several pregnant people throughout my life.

On Saturday I went to the birthday party.  I stretched myself by talking to three strangers, when I could have hid behind comfortable dialogue with my friends.  In truth though, I spent the majority of time with the 2 cupcakes and 2 buckeyes I later ate as if I were accepting an Academy Award.  If you are throwing an event, know that I am indebted to you if you have sports things playing on the TV, or a backyard game for which I can look busy spectating.  I also appreciate free booze.  Anyway, the baby was cute, and the visit long overdue.

Tonight I attended the baby shower and talked to at least five strangers.  I pretty much had to, since the only person I knew there was my sweet pregnant friend, aka The Guest of Honor.   I could have really made a go of it, but I committed a couple of grave errors.  First, I was overdressed.  Just as I was about to leave the house in my Lululemon tights and long, casual sweater, Dre stopped me and insisted that I couldn't go to a shower looking like I had just come from vinyasa.  Little did she know that this party was filled with yoga people whose idea of formalwear are rhinestone Hard Tail pants.  My second mistake was not drinking.  The affair was held at this ridiculously beautiful Venice pad -- in the Canals, no less -- but also 45 minutes from where I live in Hollywood.  I didn't want to drive in the rain with alcohol in my blood, which meant that my ability to converse was limited to the aforementioned smile and a couple of Neanderthal grunts.   Here is a sample exchange from this evening.  I'm such a douche.

Nice lady:  Ooh, those are those shoes!  [Points to the father-to-be wearing Vibram Five Fingers].  I hear they're really great to hike in!

Me:  Yes, they are.  I actually hiked the Arctic Circle this summer, you know, in tundra, wearing those.  They're great.  Really makes it easy to articulate the ground. (Because apparently hiking in the Arctic Circle is somehow relevant.)

Nice lady:  [Stares blankly.]

Eventually we all made our way to a prayer circle with drumming, which was awesome since silence was the protocol for at least 15 minutes.  I finally spoke when it was my turn to offer a blessing to my friend.  I did this with pleasure.  It's different when you're talking to someone you feel comfortable with, you know?  And that was it.  I had to duck out shortly after, since dinner plans awaited me, but not before I marveled in my weekend accomplishments.

Still, with holiday season rapidly approaching, I am going underground until January.

It is the virtues, not the faults...which constitute one's true legacy. -- Gandhi