“Always the outsider looking in…”
I was invited to a summer house party over a month ago. I didn’t want to go – I hate parties – but it’s hard to come up with reasons why I couldn’t attend and lying is difficult. Secondly the host couple are fantastic, interesting people. It’s just that I’d rather spend time with them outside of a big gathering.
I went with a friend by train followed by an uphill trudge through the misty rain to arrive at the party that was already in full swing. We had decided to be fashionable late. Initially no one heard us knocking at the door, but eventually one of the party-goers heard us and let us in.
The first thing to do is to locate the hosts to let them know that you are there, that you were actually at the party. As with most parties I’ve been to, you never really get to spend much time with the person who invited you. She introduced us to someone and let us be. As with business networking, I feel it’s bad form to cling to someone you already know so I stood aside and tried to figure out what best to do.
Surveying the room, everyone seemed to know someone else and were busy chatting away. I suppose it always feels a bit like that. There was a couch, with three people talking animatedly and laughing together. Another small group was in the kitchen (it’s an open plan kitchen, diner, conservatory space) clustered around the alcoholic drinks. Some were hanging out at the patio doors. To my left were a small group sitting on chairs against a wall next to the bookcase, again talking with each other.
I clutched my drink like a life line, sipping away nervously. I’m not sure nervous is the right word here. More resigned to my fate. I’ve been through so many of these social situations before. Some people in the groups would look up occasionally and see me standing by myself but would continue with their conversations, not even a smile thrown my way. I didn’t feel like I could go up and introduce myself. I expect others can do this with ease. It was the feeling of being an outsider, and also that I didn’t have anything meaningful, interesting or funny to add to their conversations. I’d just be boring them, a tag-along, a nodding doll.
In the past, I would have gone up to the smallest and friendliest looking group and introduced myself. However, past experience has taught me that this never yields a satisfactory result. I hate being a the fifth wheel in a group, there but not really there as I don’t contribute anything. Whenever I said anything, I found that people just carried on as thought I hadn’t said anything at all. So this time, I decided I might as well just stand on my own.
I tried to comfort myself with the fact that people are more interested in themselves than others. Therefore, they can’t really see me and it’s okay just to stand silently, alone, holding an empty glass, watching everyone else. I just have to make it for a couple of hours then I can go and my duty has been done. Until the next party, if I get invited.