Seven weeks ago, I received an email from an employee asking 1) if I planned to attend the office Christmas party and 2) if I would be bringing a date.
Wait, this is a lot of personal information to divulge to someone / an office full of people I’ve never even met. Should I say I’ll bring a date, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will make it so? Should I say no and risk being the only person to go alone? HOW COULD THEY PUT THIS KIND OF PRESSURE ON ME?! I said to myself in a panicky inner monologue of overreaction.
(If I weren’t single, I’m positive that I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, smiling ear to ear, typing my response: “Of course! My boyfriend and I will totally be there! Hehe lol #ihaveaboyfriend.)
After mentally regrouping, I responded to the email with 1) I will be attending the Christmas party and 2) I will not be bringing a date.
It seemed like a safer option than committing to bring someone, then seven weeks later making up an excuse about why he couldn’t come, like “he’s busy volunteering at the orphanage” or “he just couldn’t tear himself away from the romantic ballad he’s writing about me” or “he’s bottle-feeding a sick kitten he found on his doorstep.”
A few days before the party, I learned that I wouldn’t be the only dateless person there. Two people’s significant others couldn’t make it, and two didn’t have a significant other (that I was aware of). *sigh of relief*
With a newfound confidence fueled by my imaginary gang of misfit single coworkers, rising up in unity against +1’s, I began to prepare for the party. First: what to wear.
In a closet full of dresses, only one existed that I thought might work. I bought it for a wedding in September, and although it’s only been a couple months since then, I knew I needed to say a prayer or two before attempting to squeeze into it. Let’s just say I’ve gained some solid double digits on the scale this year. (On a related note: I just ate two cookies while writing this paragraph.)
I soon discovered that my singular dress option was only going to work if I wanted my new coworkers to know a lot more about me than they should. No thanks! So two nights before the party, I put all my eggs in Target’s basket (because the mall is a dreadful, horrifying place), and came home with a black jumpsuit. That’s right. An extra large satin onesie, just for me and my chubby winter body to let loose in for the evening. (My dream of comfortably romping around in my jumpsuit was dashed when I realized more undergarments were necessary and purchased my very first pair of control top pantyhose. If that’s not a humbling, slightly rib-crushing experience, I don’t know what is.)
In the same shopping trip, I purchased a gift for the white elephant gift exchange. You know, when everyone brings a weird gift that someone else opens and either loves (until someone steals it) or is disappointed with (forever — because no one steals it). It’s a tradition at my office, and this would be my first year to participate!
Heading downtown (fashionably late), I realized halfway there that I forgot my white elephant gift on the table, and my lateness would turn unfashionable if I turned around to retrieve it. CHRISTMAS WAS RUINED. What would my coworkers think of me and my lack of participation? BUT I LOVE PARTICIPATION! NOOO!
Whatever. I had to let it go. I arrived at the party and had to turn all of my attention to looking busy during the times when no one was talking to me. Thankfully, there was a delicious array of appetizers to occupy me for the majority of cocktail hour, so that helped. I filled my tiny saucer with as many pommes frites as it would hold and started to mingle, meeting everyone’s spouses. I filled plenty of awkward silences with even more awkward arm movements, distance-gazing, and conversation starters such as, “Your name is Terry?! That’s very similar to my name!”
In those moments, I couldn’t help but think that if I had a date, he could help me find more common ground with the couples. Plus, everyone would admire his dedication to the orphans and sick kitten so much that our calendar would be chock full of double date plans by the end of the night. Also he would have come in handy as an extra set of hands to hold my heaping pile of pommes frites.
Next was the seated dinner, which I wasn’t hungry for, but had already mentally committed to eating in its entirety. Almost immediately after I sat down, I was asked to move to a different table to make room for all the couples to sit together. I protested, “Oh, like they can’t go an hour without sitting next to each other! Grow up, people!” Just kidding. But I did make a joke about how the single people were being persecuted, which may have been the reason I was sent back to the table from whence I came. Who can really say?
Around our table were three married couples and another single coworker. Directly next to me was the wife of a coworker, an older woman named Babs, who I can only describe as being “a hoot.” She gave us a detailed account of David Hasselhoff’s new facelift, was very vocal about the parts of the meal she did not care for, and showed me multiple pictures of her cats on her flip phone. At one point she looked at me and said, “We haven’t even gotten into the immigration issue yet!” to which I just smiled and nodded, praying she wouldn’t single me out for an uncomfortable political conversation. Thankfully, all she asked was whether I had seen the Obamas’ dog recently. (I hadn’t.)
Just before it was time to start the white elephant gift exchange that I couldn’t participate in, I realized I needed to put more money in the meter for my parking space. I considered doing valet but lucked into a spot right across the street from the restaurant. Perfect! I’ll save approximately five dollars on parking, and I won’t have to let a stranger into my embarrassing car! I thought. It was a win-win.
I ran out to my car in the freezing rain and found, to my horror, a soaking wet parking ticket stuck under my windshield wiper. In a fit of rage and defiance, I left the ticket there to suffer in the frigid night like it deserved. I rejoined the party feeling pretty sorry for myself, even though there’s a 100% chance my ticket was due to user error — I entered the wrong space number, ok? (Whatever happened to those old fashioned meters you put quarters into? The world was much simpler then.)
I couldn’t help but think to myself, once again, how having a date would have been ideal in that moment. He probably would have gone for valet in the first place. But if not, he definitely would have been able to confirm the correct space number. And he certainly would have observed that you don’t even have to feed your meter after 9pm, saving me the trip outside, which he would have offered to take for me anyway. He’s the best.
The white elephant gift exchange was entertaining to say the least. (I’m pretty sure Babs went home with a giant bottle of Jagermeister and some fuzzy reindeer antlers.) Seeing new coworkers in a party atmosphere is a little like seeing your teacher at the grocery store for the first time. There’s a moment of “Is this supposed to be happening?” but then you realize we’re all just regular human beings who are silly and funny and also need groceries. I’m glad my first Christmas party came so soon after I was hired. I didn’t have to wait long at all to find out how freaky everyone is when they’re not at work!
Even though I forgot my gift and got a ticket and had to wear an extra large jumpsuit with constricting hosiery, I’ll call my first company Christmas party a success. I got to eat so much dessert while everyone else was focusing on the gift exchange! Plus, the party was fun and weird, and only one person made a comment about how I should bring a boyfriend next year. “I’ll do my best!” was the only reply I could think of. What else can you say? I know people mean well. Especially people who are a few drinks in at the company Christmas party.
So, potential dates for Christmas party 2015: start lining up now. Yes, you will have lots of responsibilities (as mentioned above), but as a reward, I will let you sit next to Babs. Her cats are really cute.