It’s time to leave the house. It’s –INSERT NAME HERE–’s birthday, and you’ve missed her last two parties. Does she still know you care? It’s been four months. You could send her a message, but… it’s her 21st birthday! That wouldn’t suffice.
Stage 1: Preparation
You’ve decided you want to go. This is the stage of checking. Checking your calendar for other social events around the same time, when assessments are due, if you have appointments, or if you just have a busy week and probably wouldn’t want a night out on the weekend. Nights out expend a lot of energy and require quite a bit of recovery if you aren’t in practice. This is a field guide on how to survive one of those times.
Stage 2: The day of the party
You spend most of the day lazing around alone trying to summon the strength to be in the presence of such dense social stimulus. You think about how excited you are to see your friends since it has been a while. You also play with the idea of socialising with completely new people, but if you’re too tired you are likely to just stick to the people you know. If there’s no one you know –just kidding, you would never go out in that scenario– or if there’s just one person you know, then proceed to freak out but mentally prepare for conversations in your head.
Stage 3: Arrival to the party
The earlier you start, the earlier you can leave. The earlier you leave, the more time you have to yourself at the end of the night. Party starts at 5pm? You’re there. Only two people? Awesome. Time to make a genuine connection with those two people. Argue to a self-proclaimed extrovert that you are in fact an introvert, even having showed up to a party, because introverts can have social skills too. Meet the host of the party. Get offered drinks, and say no. Wait for the expected follow up question, “Are you sure?” Say yes. Ask for water instead.
Stage 4: Everyone arrives
Time to put on your social mask. You haven’t socialised for a while so your social HP is at about 65/100. Proceed to talk to as many people as possible, having intense conversations, listening, asking questions and so forth. If you need a breather, there’s the dog, or the cat, or the fish, or the spider on the wall – no, don’t do that. Alternatively, you’ve probably lost your glass of water by now. Ask the hostess again where the cups are for some water. Get asked again, “Just water?” Meet a drunk person who stumbles into you. Have a good chat with them and feel a connection. Be invited to their other party, to presumably watch them get to the same level of smashed. Say you’ll be there because you genuinely liked them, but rethink going on the night. A budding friendship that started like that might be hard to pursue. Why do we celebrate being out of control?
Stage 5: Time for the exit
Assess the situation. If things are more intimate, and people would notice if you were to leave, make sure to thank the host and say bye to everyone. “You’re leaving already? You can crash over if you like!” Depending on how close the friends are, they might not know that you don’t crash. You don’t sleep on a couch with intoxicated people spilling their drinks all over you – worst case scenario – or in a room with people you don’t know. Strangers in my room? I think not. If things are more relaxed, you can tell the host and the couple of people you were with that you’re leaving, and quietly slip out unnoticed.
Stage 6: The decompression
Arrive home early. Have something to eat. Stare aimlessly at the wall, allowing your brain to slowly let go of each conversation you participated in, each subtle thing you noticed about a person. If you don’t do this, your brain will still be in conversation mode the moment when you want to fall asleep. It will probably be this way for the next few days because you didn’t sleep very well. You check your phone. You’re invited to another party, but you don’t know the person as well. You have to make sure they won’t assume you will drink because you really don’t need to be pressured or othered, even though you have faith they won’t care. Rinse and repeat these steps.