House parties are sort of a mixed bag for me. There's something about being casually social in a large group of people, a handful of which I know somewhat well and the majority of which I do not know at all, that simultaneously excites me and has me practically retching, scaling the walls in search of an exit.
The weight of the potential is both exactly what I'm looking for and entirely too much for me to handle.
I don't recall feeling this way prior to my adulthood and the death of my single-girl status. I'm fairly certain I confidently canvassed large gatherings without blinking an eye; birthday parties, roller-skating parties, high school dances, college orientation week. I had an impenetrable facade of bravado, underneath which lay the knowledge that my social standing, my sense of self and my brand image could be defined by the events of an evening.
I think it's not knowing exactly who I was or could be that made the idea of going to a party that much more interesting.
A note: I am not one of those people who is always surrounded by a group of friends. With the exception of a few brief years of high school and college where I attempted to assimilate into a larger flock, I am basically a one-friend-at-a-time sort of girl. Don't ask me why - certainly, there are benefits to having a self-sustaining mobile ecosystem around at all times to provide protection against awkward social circumstances - but I just have never been able to sustain that kind of setup for any prolonged period of time. People with groups, ladies who are concerned that they might end up with twenty-four bridesmaids: you will probably never understand this post. Please disregard.
Sir and I went to a surprise birthday party for a coworker of his last night, hopping the F train to West 4th and wandering across the chilly Village until we came upon the building where our birthday-having friend and his lady co-habitate. It was one of those fantastically New York buildings, with the heavy old elevator doors and a cascade of wizened fire escapes trickling down the darkened brick facade. We buzzed up and took our places, relaxing into the scene in very much the same way that a lone sheep will melt into the flock. We caught up with old friends and made small talk with friendly acquaintances. We hushed ourselves and gathered quietly in the dark, truly and thoroughly surprising our friend upon his return home. We slapped him on the back, congratulating him on surviving another year of life, and resumed our mingling and former level of din.
This was all well and good for about fifteen minutes, after which point it became painfully apparent that Sir was much more familiar with this crowd than I am. I lost him.
I mean, he was there, right across the room. We've not yet achieved the social status that involves the types of New York City apartments where someone might actually get lost. But he was elsewhere, refilling on refreshments or involved in another conversation to the extent that I was completely and totally alone. This is not to say that he was being inconsiderate, just that I was outnumbered in this group of people who knew each other intimately. Everyone knew someone, everyone was occupied; everyone was consumed in conversation but me.
I folded my arms across my chest, disguising the surely-visible pounding of my heart. I re-tied a shoe. I tugged at my hair, adjusting and re-adjusting my hat. I picked at the snack table, not really hungry. I scanned through my phone, pretending to be too wrapped up in phone-happenings to notice the party swirling around me. And I nearly collapsed in relief on the inside when Sir returned to me, and again a few minutes later when he declared that he was ready to leave. I practically skipped to the subway entrance, the dirty green glass globe shining like a beacon in the cold night air.
All psychoanalyzing aside, safe to say I am not the party animal I once was.
It is truly mortifying admit this about myself, and yet at the same time, I could not care less. It's the death of an ego - my younger self is appalled to see myself become such a needy loner-type, but my more mature self seems to have always known that this was where I was headed. Maybe it's aided by the pull of the universe, gently reminding me that the intended manner of survival, when you really get down to it, is as nothing more than perfectly complemented teams of two.
Maybe I need to get a grip.