An introvert’s holiday party survival guide

The holidays are hard on us introverts. There are just so many things to do, and unfortunately most of them involve other people. Now, I know holiday stress impacts extroverts too; there’s plenty of it to go around. There’s the pressure to find the perfect gift, cook the perfect meal, or choreograph the perfect Christmas morning for your kids. Honestly, though, none of this stresses me out. I gave up perfection around the time Katie Holmes gave up Tom Cruise, and like her, my life is much better for it. No, for me the thing that stands out as the most stressful part of the holidays is the parties. From office shindigs to family gatherings, to kids’ events where you stand around awkwardly eating Goldfish and drinking juice with other parents while making non-committal noises as they talk about their son’s acting future based on his performance as Manger Sheep #3; I get panicky at the thought of all that small talk.

It’s the age-old introvert’s dilemma of wanting to be invited lots of places, but not actually wanting to go. If you can relate to this, then here are some tactics you might find helpful for surviving holiday party season:

  1. Cancel your plans. I’ll come out and say it: no one really cares if you show up to their holiday party. People are way too focused on whether they have the right playlist, decorations, and food to booze ratio to facilitate enough merriment to be memorable but not so much as to necessitate steam cleaning the carpet the next day. Kids are a great excuse for canceling plans. “So sorry we can’t make it but the sitter canceled last minute. We could still come and bring Little Tommy, he just has this rash that we’re 75% sure is not contagious…”

  2. Even better, pretend you were there. (Caution: this only works with big parties.) Send the following text to the host the next morning: Omg, KILLER party! We kept trying to come over to say hi but couldn’t get past the chocolate foundation/string quartet/go-go dancers dressed as elves. [Insert your best guess here.]  

  3. Prioritize. Here you’ll want to develop your own criteria. Suggestions include: Which parties are closest to home? Have the best food? The best gift bags? Don’t involve donating any money to worthy causes? Include people you actually want to hang out with on the guest list? RSVP yes selectively and then decline the rest (or employ #1 or #2).

  4. Go to the grocery store. This is specific to family gatherings. (Hi family! Thanks for reading! Know that I love you, I just sometimes need a break.) My husband and I have been known to fight over who is going to run to the store to pick up a missing ingredient. Advanced version: you don’t even need a missing ingredient—make one up!

    “Oh look, we’re out of milk!”

    “There should be another carton right there behind the—”

    “Nope, don’t see it, bye!”

    Then walk very slowly up and down each aisle while streaming an episode of House of Cards. Just don’t forget to buy something; coming home empty handed generates a lot of questions you don’t want to answer.

  5. Do something to ensure you’ll never be invited back. (Note: This won’t help you this year, but if you put in the work, I guarantee you’ll be a social pariah by next year. Also, it’s probably best not to use this one for office parties unless you’re already planning to resign in disgrace.) Pretend to get drunk and get in a fist fight with a friend. Even better, do it for real. Start a rumor that Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears are getting back together. Wear a Make America Great Again t-shirt. Commandeer the music and play Adele’s “Someone Like You” on repeat while crying softly. You see where I’m going here—this is your opportunity to get creative!

  6. Throw your own damn party. Invite the five people you like and encourage them to wear their pajamas. Serve only food and drinks you already have on hand so you don’t have to go to the store. (In my case this would be yogurt squeezies, Cheezits, and tequila.) Laugh, cry, have real conversations, then send everyone home by 9pm. Your true friends will call you the next day and tell you this was the best holiday party they’ve ever been to.

Please don’t misunderstand, I do love the holidays. Now that I’m raising a little person, they have become even more magical. It’s easy, though, to get caught up in the less enchanting parts and to treat the season like one giant to-do list that leaves us too tired to enjoy the best moments. And while I have been to some amazing parties, my favorite holiday memories are not of crowds or signature cocktails. Those quiet moments, though, only happen when we create the space for them to take place. So give yourself a break this year, introverts. Stay home if you want to, pour yourself a glass of eggnog and make some holiday memories from the couch.

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