By KATE LEAVER
I probably set a record last week, for Least Time Spent at a Christmas Party.
Have you ever walked into a party, completely on your own? No name or face clues. Just a pretty dress, strappy heels and a hot blush creeping up your neck.
Last week, I did it. When the invitation to this Christmas bash arrived, I was so thrilled. Flattered to be included, and positively gleeful with the prospect of meeting this group of wonderfully smart women. Then and there, I promised myself that I’d go.
The day came, and I spent hours fretting about the party, desperately tempted to excuse myself from the event. I so frequently duck out of parties at last minute in favour of hibernation, but I challenged myself to go to this one. I pictured myself chatting loudly, making meaningful connections, befriending writers I admire enormously. I pictured myself an extrovert.
This is what really happened.
I drove to the pub straight after work, at about 8.30pm. I switched my sensible flats for strappy sandals that leave zig-zag indentations on my feet but make me feel sassy. I circled the block 9 times, half looking for a park, half psyching myself up.I walked in. Scanned the room. Tried to make eye contact with someone sympathetic. Everyone had been there 3 hours, their cheeks were flushed with drinking and their conversations were in full, jolly flight. I didn’t recognise anyone. I toyed with the idea of getting a drink, so I had something to hold. I couldn’t work out a way to infiltrate any of the circles of party-goers. Karaoke was imminent.
So I faked a phone call. Walked straight out and back down the stairs, and flew out onto the street, sweaty and grateful for the light breeze and anonymity of the curbside. I called my mum, high pitched and wobbly: “Ma, am I allowed to go home now? I’m actually quite pleased with myself that I turned up at all, but I think I need to go now. Can I just notch it up as a good story? Maybe I can write about it! Being scared of parties! I was actually really brave, mum. But I’d like to buy myself an ice cream and go home via the bookshop.”
And so, I’m confronted with my own introversion. I’m an introvert, and that’s OK (sing this to the tune of Monty Python’s I’m A Lumberjack And That’s OK).Being socially timid (I like to think it’s not always obvious when you meet me) is at odds with the fact that I’m a performer. Put me on the stage, in front of a camera or at a lectern and I come to life. I’m a spotlight-dwelling creature who trades in words and witticisms. Give me a keyboard or a pen, and I’m all sass and eloquence. But in a room full of people I don’t know, at night, with drinks, straining to hear what people are saying over the din of clanging music? I shudder at the thought.