'Tis the season for Christmas parties and end-of-year cocktail functions.
I have the utmost admiration for those who turn up to such occasions without a companion. I'm not fond of attending functions on my own - mainly because I'm not very good at it.
Mingling is not my forte. I'll never forget going to some corporate networking event in the 90s and being confronted by a noisy room full of small clusters of men. I wandered slowly around, first looking for someone I knew, then any friendly face and finally just anyone who'd notice me. I decided I'd leave if I'd completed a circuit of the room without being acknowledged by a solitary person. As it turned out I encountered a colleague and was saved from feeling like a social pariah.
With that experience firmly fixed in my mind I make a point now of keeping an eye open for people newly arrived or lurking at the edges of a group hoping to be acknowledged. I try to include anyone who seems to be at a bit of a loss. Feeling invisible while in full view of dozens of people is a most disconcerting experience.
I was reminded of the internal courage required to attend functions alone when we had our class drinks for school parents in Newmarket the other week. I arrived with my husband and although I didn't see him all evening (I was too busy gas-bagging with the other mums) I think just knowing there's someone there who will ultimately stop me looking like a Nelly-no-friends makes me relax and socialise up a storm. Perversely it's only if he wasn't there that I'd need him. Go figure.
But I noted a couple of women arrive without a partner and as they entered the back area of the bar I saw them get their game-face on a split second ahead of arriving. Maybe it was because I knew them but I perceived a subtle straightening of the spine and an arranging of the face in preparation for being cheerful, lively and interesting. Once they were happily ensconced in a convivial group, their relief was palpable.
I've travelled alone, lived alone, skied alone, dined in restaurants alone and I love going to the movies on my own but the prospect of attending a cocktail function alone fills me with dread. I wasn't looking forward to flying solo at my new-ish tennis club's Christmas party because I knew few members. I'd have chickened out had I not promised the captain of my interclub team I'd go. I parked the car, checked my lipstick, straightened my frock, put my game-face on and boldly headed inside. As it happened I arrived at exactly the same time as my friend (and captain). I let out a figurative sigh of relief and clung to her like a limpet all night.
Does turning up to events solo bother you? Have you any hideous experience you wish to share? Do you any have tips for mingling more easily?