Week 39: I Came to Dance [Score +15]
The company holiday party: after three or four years of avoidance, I decided to be intrepid and go to mine this year.
When you work for a large company—mine has about 1,600 employees in the Indianapolis area alone—these parties are big. Unless your timing is fortuitous, this isn’t the kind of gathering where you can walk in the door and spot a friend within 10 seconds. Instead, this is the kind of shindig where you may know five people who are there, but you don’t see them at all the entire evening.
Big parties at which I have to yell to have a conversation with the person standing next to me aren’t generally my thing. Add to this my usual lack of a willing +1, and you can understand why my enthusiasm for attending in the last few years hasn’t been terribly high.
But this year, I’m pushing myself into less-comfortable social situations, so I checked the ‘YES’ box on the RSVP.
I hoped that my foray into app-assisted dating would mean I wouldn’t have to go solo this year, but alas, even the most optimistic among us can’t get everything we want.
I got excited about the opportunity to get a new, fancy outfit and dress up, even if it was for the eyes of no one by myself. I feel like I’ve lately been living in business-casual and athleisure clothing, both of which are functional, comfortable, and entirely acceptable for 95% of my days. Neither style makes me feel particularly feminine or pretty, though, and it had been quite a while since I’d really dressed up.
I played dress-up a lot when I was a kid. I had a box of my mom’s worn-once bridesmaid dresses and cast-off heels, and all of those pieces got a lot of hand-me-down love. I still feel that same thrill today that I got as a little girl: when you put on a new ensemble that is outside your routine but makes you feel different—in a good way—it’s just plain fun. It changes how you walk, how you look at yourself in the mirror, how you feel when you enter a room.
I arrived at the holiday party—in an upscale hotel ballroom in downtown Indianapolis—entirely on my own, not sure if my friends would be there already. After I stepped off the escalator, checked my coat, and flashed my employee badge, a hallway lined with icy white branches and cool blue light guided me to the party. Servers stood at the entrance offering a glass of champagne rimmed with pop rocks (yes, please) and other attendees queued up for a photographer (I passed).
The room itself looked like a huge wedding reception: tables of three sizes were covered in white tablecloths, turquoise cloth napkins, and elaborate white floral centerpieces. A stage stood at one end—ready for the magician act that would take place before dinner—and a DJ and dance floor at the other.
I paused just inside the entrance to look around and see if I’d get lucky in spotting friends within 10 seconds (no such luck), then did what Jane Austen might call “taking a turn about the room”: a slow meander around the outside of the room to see if I’d spot recognizable faces.
Again, no such luck. By this point, I was starting to feel uncomfortable and aware of my aloneness. Everyone I saw entering was part of a pair, and none of those faces were familiar. I found a spot to stand near the doorway where I could watch the flow of people and pulled out my phone as a last resort to text a friend and see if she was there.
As I stood waiting for a reply, watching the flow of unknown people, I started debating with myself how long I’d wait before calling it a loss and heading home.
Yes, I could approach someone new and try to make a new friend. Most everyone I’ve ever met in this company has been friendly and open to such things (we’re generally polite Midwesterners, after all). An extroverted friend might find the possibility of new connections to be thrilling.
I just found it overwhelming. In a room of 1,000 people, where would I even start? And how much small talk would I have to endure before either a) we got to a comfortable conversation or b) I could just escape home to my dog and stretchy pants?
Thankfully, I got a text in reply and learned that my friend was in the room and had an extra seat at her table.
From that point forward, the night was relaxed and fun. I got to meet my friend’s fiancé (a completely delightful match for her), had a nice dinner, and best of all, got to dance.
I love to dance, whether it’s choreographed in a performance or spontaneous at a wedding. I don’t do it much anymore, though I’d like to change that (a hopeful intrepid activity in the near future). Getting even an hour of dancing at this party—driven by a great DJ—was great fun.
I called it a night around 10:45 when my unaccustomed feet were starting to cry to be relieved of their heels.
What may seem, to some, like an insignificant night out was a push-yourself moment for me. Without anyone else holding me accountable, it would have been very easy to just stay home.
I’m glad I didn’t.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3
- Intentionally stayed out past 9:30 p.m.: +5