An inevitable and daunting element of the Christmas season is the Christmas party. This dreaded affair can take many forms, casual or formal formats, and can drain the very life out of you in a matter of moments. The process is all too familiar. It all begins with email thread or e-vite circulation in November. You reply with enthusiasm, saying you’ll be “delighted” to attend, and then shelf the thought without paying much attention to the details. It’s only when the event is a week out that you suddenly register how entirely un-delighted you will be to attend. How completely lacking in delight the entire event will be. How much you would, in fact, rather eat glass.
Whether it’s work-related, friends, family, or you’re simply going along as someone else’s plus-one to buffer their own nightmarish situation, the social anxiety of the Christmas party cannot be avoided, and is inexplicably replicated every single solitary year. Why do we continue to do it to ourselves, to each other? How has no one stepped in to say what we’re all thinking, to announce it on a public platform that none of us really want to partake?
I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Over dinner with friends this weekend, a group of girlfriends and I shared our mutual distaste for having to get ourselves in shape -- not for our own personal benefit, but for the photographs that will be taken at the aforementioned gatherings.
The Christmas party is the adult equivalent of a high school yearbook photo. Only this time, it comes with an audition-like interview process where you have to provide the world with the best possible impression of yourself and your life to go with your stunning headshot.
How many of us really want to buy multiple new outfits for each individual occasion, gifts for the various hosts, and thank you cards for the numerous guests? How many of us would prefer to be spending our holiday vacation days curled up under a pile of blankets while being spoon-fed delicious treats and watching every guilty pleasure movie ever?
A grinch I may be on the inside, but heaven knows I’ll be taking these godforsaken events by storm and putting on an Oscar worthy performance. Every physical, social and conversational obstacle that may present itself can be met with a substantial defense -- you just have to be prepared.
I have found myself with a healthy number of hurdles this year, and have devised top survival methods to cope, carry on, and hopefully enjoy myself in the process.
As I haven’t seen the inside of a gym for 18 months and my diet consists largely (entirely) of pizza and wine, I have had to figure out ways and means of dressing myself up like a festive turkey in order to appear delicious while keeping a year’s worth of American stuffing safely hidden away.
Dressing exclusively in all black has become a favorite habit of mine -- pun intended -- in the last year, and I’ve often presented it with a comedic quip about being in mourning for various hilarious things -- my romantic life, my waist, etc.
I plan to continue in this helpfully slimming fashion, wearing large, black, and often shapeless garments. Of course, the best thing about wearing all black all the time, is that no one can really detect whether you’re wearing the same outfit every single day or not. Saving money, saving time.
As for what I’ll be in mourning of, I think the best option will be the America of the pre-Trump days. This should swiftly divert the conversation from the personal to the global, and will allow for some topics and opinions that don’t pertain to people’s boring lives and children, which, for those of us who still consider ourselves to be children disguised as adults, is the most unbearable conversation subject of all time.
Don’t get me wrong -- this isn’t because I don’t care about the children, the future, and all the rest of it, but because I constantly find myself identifying more with the kids that I’m being told about than with the adults doing the telling.
I get why they threw that tantrum. I understand why they’re so cranky on Sundays. What puts me off discussing them is how worryingly they’re more on my level than my fellow adult human friends and colleagues.
Speaking of immaturity, as my last relationship exploded into a public oblivion, I have had to handpick a selection of entertainingly disastrous dating stories to transform into titillating anecdotes which will hopefully drown out the nauseatingly anticipated questions and queries into my emotional stability and romantic well-being.
I can already hear the consoling chorus of relatives saying that they never liked him much anyway, which will be the biggest lie of all time because they absolutely adored him. He was always a welcome addition to my family gatherings over the years.
I can see myself tossing my head back in laughter as I deflect from the horror of it all with a self-deprecating tale about a nightmarish first date in the immediate and too-soon aftermath.
And I can see my efforts of deflection being met with sympathetic gazes and concerned expressions that will only further fuel my desire to make everyone laugh along with me. It’s annoying how the seemingly greatest defense mechanisms can be so transparent to the people who have known you forever.
As the onslaught of Christmas parties approaches, I wonder how many of us are struggling through hypothetically awkward social encounters before they even happen, running imaginary scenarios on an endless loop in our heads. Does everyone rehearse conversations that might not happen, or practice responses to questions that may never materialize?
When celebrating Christmas and catching up with friends and family who you haven’t seen much all year is meant to be an exciting time, are we all secretly harboring a minor dose of nerves and, more importantly, is that why we invented egg-nog and mulled wine?