Next week I’ll be as many years as Baskin Robins has flavors of ice cream. And finally I’m learning to say no to things I do not want to do. In this case: parties.

Let’s define “party.” A party is a social gathering of six or more people with the object of being social. Usually the event features alcohol (or is centered around it), food, or some kind of life milestone (wedding, baby, graduation, etc.). Typically a party consists of so many people that it’s impossible for one person to know everyone well, the host of the party being the exception (maybe). What results is a lot of small conversations about the day to day, the weather, work, and any and all topics which fall under the small talk rubric.

For someone like me, who hits 90% on the MBTI for introversion, a party is the most suffocating form of human interaction.

A note before moving on. Not all introverts are the same, and not all of us despise/loathe/can’t stand parties. But a lot of us do. Introverts find large numbers of people we don’t know, especially ones we must interact with because of the social demands forged by extroverts of the past, exhausting. I’d rather socialize with two or three close friends and discuss ideas, philosophy, or current political or religious events and what their ramifications may be. You know, the sorts of topics people aren’t supposed to talk about.

The most recent party I attended—and my last—was a girls night Christmas party with the theme “Naughty or Nice.” I was invited by a friendly co-CrossFitter and felt, because she’d asked me to attend earlier parties I’d always found excuses to get out of, obligated. So I went. The party hit all the checkboxes for Ways To Make Me Uncomfortable: women only, people getting drunk, people being loud, people asking shallow questions. The highlight of the evening was a pretty girl, dressed elegantly, getting drunk and inserting the F, D, and S bomb every other word. Not exaggerating. She belted her profanity across the room and laughed in the glory of her vulgarity.

A chronological list of places I’d rather have been at that moment:

  1. at home
  2. in my car driving home
  3. outside the house as I walked to my car to drive home
  4. getting up out of my chair to walk to the door to go outside and get into my car to drive home.

And so, the instant the party winded down, I grabbed my purse (forgot my jacket) and fled.

Afterwards, I thought of all the parties of my past and tried to think of at least one that didn’t make me want to stab myself in the chest with a fork. I came up with exactly one, and the reasons it was successful:

  1. older men and older women (upwards of 40 years)
  2. successful men and successful women
  3. we all loved sailboats
  4. I’d just run my boat aground and we all talked about our best boating stories, thus avoiding tedious small talk.

And that was it. The end.

The boat party was the exception to the rule, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on planet earth, it’s that exceptions are few. Which is why henceforth I’m saying no to baby showers, bridal showers, business mixers, graduation ceremonies, Christmas parties, all holiday parties, all parties involving just women, all parties where I know people just well enough to maybe remember their names, all parties that require a “Hello my name is ___” sticker. Fin.

Instead, I’ll focus my energies on events I enjoy. If I want to make meaningful connections with people, I must do meaningful things, which (for me) are not social gatherings of six or more people with object of being social. If we’re going to hang out, let’s pick a place where we can listen to each other and have a discussion of importance. Or let’s go outside and enjoy all the pursuits nature has to offer. Let’s make the center of our gathering something we enjoy and don’t need to medicate our nervousness with alcohol.

It is not rude to say no to a party. It’s acceptable to opt out, to stay at home that evening and read a book, to binge watch Breaking Bad, to peruse the internet and laugh at cat videos. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing instead.