December 10, 2001
Social Disease

"Where did you FIND him?" asks Jane The Business Development Manager, casting an admiring eye at David from across the buffet table.

In his spiffy black suit and his bazillion-dollar smile, he is easily the hunkiest husband at The Dirt Company Holiday Party. And the most attentive: for most of the evening he has rarely left my side. Now he is standing next to me, carefully spooning mushroom gravy over the mound of rice on my plate. ("Is that enough? Or would you like another dollop?")

"I found him in an AOL chat room," I beam at Jane in reply. The expression on her face turns out to be the third-best moment of The Dirt Company Christmas Party. (The second and first-best moments, respectively, are 2.) arriving at the party, and 1.) finally departing the party, four and a half hours later.)

I've always been adept at finding ways to wiggle out of social obligations, especially those social occasions where I am 1.) required to smile, make eye contact, chuckle warmly and engage in polite chit-chat with people I might otherwise cross the street to avoid, or social occasions where I am 2.) Required to show up. When I had Tots in diapers, "babysitter complications" was always a reliable *out.* No one ever questions "babysitter complications," mainly because no one wants you to bring your BABY to a white-tablecloth-and-place-cards dinner party. As The Tots got older, "sick kid" became the excuse of choice. (And once again it worked every time, mainly because no one wants you to bring your sneezing/runny-nosed/diarrheic four-year-old to a 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration.) Other excuses I've used over the years, with varying degrees of credibility, include dead grandparent, dead car battery, sudden unfortunate temporary paralysis and moving to California.

And then of course there's always the tried-and-true "family obligation," which is what I used to get out of last year's Totem Pole Company Holiday Party.

There was no wiggling out of this year's company Christmas party, of course. I didn't even try. And yes, it was OK, as far as office parties go ... especially as HOLIDAY office parties go. The food was great, the General Manager's home was lovely, I won a $20 gift certificate to a fancy-pants Vietnamese Restaurant in the gift exchange, I had a beautiful new black velvet pantsuit to dribble peanut sauce on ... and yes, I'm glad I went: I felt it was important that I be perceived as A Team Player, by my boss and by her boss and by the owner of the company and by all of my (slightly-inebriated) new co-workers ... even if I secretly would have preferred to spend my Saturday night at home in bed with my husband, watching "Cops" and cleaning my toenails with a bent pair of tweezers.

What can I tell you? A party grrl I will never be. I doubt that that will ever change.

On the other hand, if I must suffer from the social disease known as PartyPooperitis -- and if I must endure the occasional Enforced Happy-Doodle Fun Time -- it helps to have somebody like David at my side. He is the Groucho to my Harpo ... the John Gilbert to my Greta Garbo ... the Teller to my Penn. (Or is that the Penn to my Teller? I can never remember.) As quiet and uncomfortable as I am in a roomful of people, that's how engaging and electric and comfortable HE is. He spent the entire evening shmoozing, glad-handing, charming the socks off my new co-workers -- at one point I caught him engaging in Death Penalty Chat with the Marketing Manager's wife -- and proving beyond a molecule of a doubt my theory that if you put Ю僱êrvØ¡ into a room full of people, he will find something to talk about with each and every one of them before the night is over. He even managed to find somebody he'd gone to HIGH SCHOOL with, if you can believe that -- the caterer's husband -- and they spent about an hour exchanging Do you remember so-and-so stories.) With David by my side, I felt safe and relaxed. He kept the conversation flowing. He kept an arm around my waist/a hand on my knee at all times. He helped deflect the inevitable "Have you tried the Merlot/the Cabarnet Sauvignon/the Ultra-Snooty Napa Valley?" ("We don't drink wine, actually. But the stuffed mushrooms are great.") He made a potentially intolerable evening tolerable.

Plus he's probably got Jane The Business Development Manager scrambling madly for the nearest AOL chat room, even as we speak.

tell 'em secra sent you

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on the other hand, I would have given my eye teeth
[or at least that crusty molar that's hanging by a thread
on the upper left-hand side of my mouth]
to be at the OTHER big party this weekend ...
... Jaymi's surprise birthday party on Sunday afternoon.
hope we get to see pictures, at least?