I have a strange relationship with social events. I love planning them. As a teenager, I filled notebooks with details of themed birthday parties I could imagine hosting. But I only actually pulled off one of them, when I was 11. After that, they were just dreams and sketches on scrap paper.
In college, I joined our University Activity Board and helped to plan social events, fairs, fundraisers, and more. The committee we put together was one of the most productive the school had had in years, and our events were seriously successful (by our small, rural university’s standards.). I was right in the thick of it all — calling other college’s social coordinators and e-mailing fraternity presidents, handing out flyers at campuses I’d never set foot on before.
And in all four years, I never hosted an actual party of my own. I had an apartment. I had a large group of friends and knew most everyone on campus. My roommates were my best friends in the whole world. But the image of college students with pizza and beer, or snack food and homemade punch, with music blaring and funny themed costumes… those were never a part of my reality. I think I got invited to those once or twice. I talked about going for about an hour. And then I curled up on the couch with my roomie and watched a movie and had a great, quiet, party-less night.
The fun has always been in the planning. The research. The details. Envisioning how each little thing might be. Carefully creating backup plans for inevitable “oops” moments. That’s what I love. That’s what makes me happy. Actually putting myself and my ideas out there? Sending invitations and being faced with the reality of how few friends might show? Being reminded that I don’t own the perfect outfit, nor do I have the money to go buy it? That’s what triggers the anxiety and sends all my ideas back into the scrap pile.
So when I sat down to begin developing The List in mid-August, “Host a Party” was one of the first items added. I knew it would be a challenge for me. But that’s what this project is about… not backing down from those things that intimidate me and (hopefully) learning that they aren’t nearly as scary as I expect them to be. And after 15 years of planning, I shouldn’t have any shortage of party ideas!
The right opportunity came sooner than I’d expected, when I was reminded that one of my roommates loves Halloween. I mean LOVES. Apparently it’s a thing in her family; her mom is even more into the holiday that she is. So when she casually threw out the idea, “Hey, I was thinking it might be cool to host a little Halloween party…” I jumped. As did our third roommate. And so it began.
As expected, the planning was awesome: The Facebook invites to anyone we thought might possibly attend and a lot that we didn’t think would. The glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs on the front porch. The floating eyeballs in the punch. The “fingers in the a blanket” and “monster cookies.” I even managed to pull together an outfit that made me really happy, even though I held off on telling anyone what it was until the last minute because I was worried if others would think it was stupid. We all sat around laughing, as we imagined all our friends in the same room, because we are three very different young women with very different friend groups.
And then came the lack of RSVP’s — or the “Sorry, I can’t make it” RSVP’s — from most of my friends. My roommates Becky and Dani both had plenty of people say they would come. (We actually started to worry a bit because more of Becky’s friends RSVP’ed than she’d ever expected.)
Halloween arrived, and I started wondering how I might get out of going to my own party. Really, that shouldn’t surprise anyone based on my history of pre-social event anxiety. And then the most amazing thing in the history of the world happened.
My two best friends showed up on my front door… after driving seven hours and sitting on my couch for 20 minutes waiting for me to get out of the shower so they could see the look of shock on my face. Suddenly, it didn’t matter who else showed up or what anyone thought of my costume or whether I accidently burned the finger food or if the jello shots were WAY too strong.
But others did show up. And people had fun. And all our friend groups played nicely together. And apparently my legs looks great in my costume. And I didn’t burn the snacks. And the jello shots were strong enough to make my best friends make out with my neighbor’s cross-dressing friend from out of town. And the beer pong table was packed all night. And there was the perfect amount of leftovers. And nothing in our home got broken. And I even met a really sweet, cute guy. (Maybe if I’m lucky he’ll pop back up in another of these posts.)
In other words, the party was a great success! And something about the entire experience made me want MORE. More socialization, more parties, more friends. A few weeks later, I accepted an invite to a “Friendsgiving” hosted by friends I hadn’t seen in six months. Last weekend, I carpooled to an out-of-state Christmas party with the same group of friends and remembered why they were my friends to begin with. I still get major butterflies just before anything social, but now I know that if I push through, I’ll probably be glad I did. So, we’re making baby steps here. Progress is slow, but it’s worth it.
That’s what this project is all about.
And I’m committing — right here right now in public — to hosting a party in the spring for my 27th birthday. I’m looking for volunteers to help keep me accountable!