Monday, December 27, 2010

Party On, Gentle Souls

by Sophie


I'm not a natural reveler. I confess that with a certain amount of embarrassment - celebrating seems like something that should come as naturally as breathing.

The word "celebration" invokes for me a specific set of images - champagne glasses, confetti, unrestrained laughter. Bright colors, the flash of cameras, hearty voices joined in conversation and song; red lipstick and silvery shoes and dance floors packed with couples.

I don't care for loud noises or crowds or bright colors - I'm hypersensitive to stimuli of all sorts - but it is the whole that is most intimidating, the sense of communal energy, people joining together in an emotional space where I just can't manage to engage.

But despite all that, I don't want to be left out. Introversion is lonely - at least, it is for me - and I long for the company of others. So I find ways of coping. Like my colorblind brother who has adopted a variety of tricks to avoid going out into the world in clothing combinations that clash, buying staples in neutral shades and enlisting the help of his wife to get dressed, I've developed my own tricks and schemes to get through parties and gatherings.

I give myself pep talks in advance ("They're nervous too," and "No one is paying attention at you," I remind myself, like the mother of a nervous middle schooler on the night of her first dance.) I eschew anything eye-catching, anything that might invite conversation, and dress in black and gray. I arrive early enough to scope out the corners and shadows where I can hide. And I find my comfort objects - people who are aware of my flaws and love me anyway - and check in with them from time to time, much like my daughter used to search for me when she was a toddler at the park, climbing into my lap every so often just to reassure herself that I was still there before dashing off for more adventures.

At a recent party, I made a valiant effort for a while, then retreated to a table tucked into a niche. Like a fox in a den, I felt cozy in the little space, armed with my drink and my snacks, observing the glorious melee all around me while I girded myself for another burst of socializing. After a while, a friend slid in across t table from me. "Mind if I hide out with you?" she asked. She's shy too. Of course I didn't mind; like-minded folks understand what you're up to, and make good company. You don't have to explain yourself. LIttle silences feel companionable rather than strained.

Before long another couple joined us, and another, until we had turned our own little party. We laughed and talked and gossiped and drank and, it occurs to me now, did everything that was going on in the big party, but somehow the energy felt a little different. Safer. No one asked me to dance. No one expected me to remember a punch line or sing choruses or regale captive listeners.

Party on, I thought as the evening grew late and I slipped away, leaving the reveling to those hardier stalwarts, the ones born to wear spangles and lead conga lines. I was content - even delighted - to have played my small part. Even the grandest fetes need humble footsoldiers as well as bold captains, and I was happy to be among their number.


Jeri Hoag said...

I'm exactly the same way. I will keep in mind its ok to be a footsoldier. Happy New Year! I can't wait for this coming year's posts.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hey! Are you referring to *me* with those references to spangles and conga lines, you sly dog???
I want you at my parties, whether dancing on the bar or hiding in the corner, you always bring your wonderful, glittering loveliness ;-)
Looking forward to a big New Year's Eve?

Sophie Littlefield said...

Jeri - we will have a veritable army of shy footsoldiers. :) a lovely image, yes?

Sophie Littlefield said...

Julie, you are indeed my spangly one :) thank you for always making me feel at home. as for new years eve....well, i'll be celebrating it with my dad and his wife who will probably have jet lag, so i imagine it will be a suitably low key affair....

Mysti said...

It's always a treat when Sophie shows up at a celebration. Laughter and understanding and conversation and some delightful mischief always erupt.

I'm celebrating all the wonderful writers I've had the chance to spend time with this year...thank you all!!!!


Rachael Herron said...

Sophie, this is lovely. And I know EXACTLY where you sat at that party, and I know how the party grew around you (as it does). Happy New Year. xo

L.G.C. Smith said...

I know you feel like this because we've discussed it over the years, but NO ONE CAN TELL. This is part of the Magic of Sophie. You focus on putting others at ease and asking them about themselves, and to all appearances, you're the most gracious party-guest or hostess imaginable.

You should open a finishing school for awkward writers. Sign me up for the first class.

Lisa Hughey said...

I like the image of you as a foot soldier. Oh, and what LGC said--NO ONE CAN TELL. However we know. :)

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