In Which Jim Poops the Parties
Random Thought: I really hope Twitter and other feeds don’t truncate the title of this blog post…
I hate parties.
I get invited to room parties at conventions, and I generally smile and mumble something about how I’ll try to stop by depending on how tired I am. And then, almost without exception, I blow them off.
I appreciate the invitations. Really I do. I just don’t have the energy for them.
It’s not just convention parties, either. I took my son to a birthday party earlier this year, and while he had a blast, I … did not. The kids’ parties at our house aren’t much better.
It’s not shyness. Put me in front of a room on a panel or for a reading, and on most days I’ll rock your socks off. One-on-one or in a small group, no problem. Hanging out at the bar with the other writers? I can do that too … though I tend to get quieter as group size increases, and I eventually need to retreat somewhere quieter in order to recharge.
That’s the introversion thing. I can do crowds, but it takes a toll. While we were up north last week, we went to a few small town festivals and parades, and they were almost physically painful. Too many people, too much noise, too much crowding and bumping into strangers and loud music and everyone’s conversations turned up too loud…
The day after one such event, I hung out at our camp and worked on Libriomancer all afternoon while my wife took the kids back into town. I felt guilty as hell, but I needed that time, alone with the door shut, to recharge.
Laura Anne Gilman had a post a while back wherein she talked about breaking past the usual social circles and meeting new people at parties. I commented that I would love to learn how to do that.
The thing is, having thought about it more, I don’t know if that was a true statement. I ended up at John Scalzi’s birthday party at a con a few years back. I stole a Coke Zero and promptly found a safe spot near the corner with a few other writers. I did say hi to John, and spoke to a few other folks … but mostly I just don’t want the big party experience.
Smaller groups make it easier — for me, at least — to have real conversations. I’d much rather hang out with one or two friends for an hour than hang out in a noisy, crowded room full of people. Even if all of those people are full of 120% awesomeness.
It always felt like something was broken. Everybody likes parties, right? So what’s wrong with me that I don’t? Shouldn’t I work harder to join the parties and enjoy them? Shouldn’t I spend more time learning the behaviors and working to improve that set of conversational skills?
I could force myself, sure. I might even get better at shutting out the conversational/crowd noise for a while. But I don’t think I’d enjoy it.
I can do parties. There are aspects that make me happy. I love seeing my kids having fun with their friends, for example. But they always take something out of me. I don’t come away feeling energized. I come away feeling drained exhausted.
So maybe I don’t hate parties. But for me, parties are work. Sometimes they’re painful — even if I like the people involved. I prefer my social interactions to be smaller. And, at thirty-seven years old, I’m finally figuring out that there’s nothing wrong with that.
July 11, 2011 @ 10:25 am
I hate parties. I don’t do them comfortably in the slightest.
I’m OK in towns, I guess, but I felt close to having a panic attack in a bus station once. I’m weird like that.
July 11, 2011 @ 10:28 am
First — your opening comment made me laugh. Out loud.
Parties aren’t for everyone. There are some kinds of parties I avoid at all costs. I dislike baby showers, for instance. Mostly because of the stupid games. (Seriously, I don’t need to change a baby’s diaper blindfolded. Ever.)
I’ve noticed that they take a lot out of me, on occasion. If there are a lot people I don’t know — or, worse, there are a few attending that I just don’t like. I’ve realized that we all have our own party quirks.
Like you said, Jim — there’s nothing wrong with preferring your social interactions on a smaller scale. 🙂
July 11, 2011 @ 10:32 am
Nothing wrong with it all. I’m with you on this, and now as I grow older I have an excellent excuse. I can no longer hear what people say when there is lots of background noise.
In fact, I think that is one of the enduring mysteries of life to me: why or why do people play music when no one is listening? It’s so much pleasanter when a) you listen to music and don’t talk or b) talk and turn the music off.
So please people — if you have a party with a lot of older folk attending, turn the music down.
July 11, 2011 @ 10:37 am
Ah yes, the joy of being a performative introvert. I’m very good at performing and interacting one on one, which is why people who know me casually are shocked to find out how much of an introvert I am. I also find large groups of people physically and mentally exhausting. Being out in crowds for too long makes me ill, and it was a long time before I could accept that it was okay for me to moderate my human intake.
Jim C. Hines
July 11, 2011 @ 10:40 am
“your opening comment made me laugh. Out loud.”
Good 🙂 It was supposed to!
July 11, 2011 @ 10:44 am
I’ve been reading your blog here off and on for some time and I had to speak up because…. I’m 36, have known for several years that yes, I’m an introvert, but am really just now finding out what that means as well.
So I hear and understand.
Couple of things I’ve been reading – I know spare time is tight between 2 jobs and family, but perhaps they’ll be of use to you and/or your commenters.
One is a book I’ve been reading called “Introvert Power” by Dr. Laurie Helgoe. Helgoe is a psychologist turned writer who is also an introvert. The book is interesting, and provides some small exercises to think about for people who haven’t figured out yet what their introversion means to them. She makes what I think is an unnecessary distinction between introverts who can “fake it” long enough to get by in the external world, and introverts who don’t even try, but who join some small sub-culture where it’s permissible to be anti-social. But otherwise, it’s been a worthwhile read. My husband, who is an ambivert (he’s halfway in between extraversion and introversion, has traits of both, but compared to me, he’s wildly social) read it as well, and says it helps him understand me and what I need a little bit better.
I’ve also been following Susan Cain’s blog, and waiting for her book to come out in January so I can get a look at it. The blog is http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com. She tends to talk more about being introverted in school, how our educational system handles introverted children, and about introversion in business and leadership, but some of her posts have directed me to some interesting reading.
Last biggish party I went to was thrown by some people I grew up with, honorary aunt and uncle people, so we went to it, and after 3 hours, I’d hit the point where I was having a hard time directing my attention to anything in particular… the conversation I was part of, the ache in my back, and the musicians jamming in the yard were all coming in on an equal basis. That’s about how I knew it was time to leave. And understanding my introversion a little better, I had scheduled some quiet time at home both before and after.
Other things I dislike is the mall on a busy weekend day or holiday season. The county fair drives me batty. Someone I was dating once took me to a casino, and even at 4 in the morning, there was waaay too much going on.
July 11, 2011 @ 1:00 pm
I can relate. I do go to con parties, but only to spend time with specific people. There’s no way I can go to a party without someone I know or just to meet new people, because I get claustrophobic. It’s very stressful. Too many people. Too loud. It’s work, and I can only do it so often.
Jim C. Hines
July 11, 2011 @ 2:24 pm
It’s amazing how many comments have come in here and on LJ that basically amount to “Me too!”
Nice to know I’m not alone 🙂
Jim C. Hines
July 11, 2011 @ 2:25 pm
I hadn’t come across the phrase “performative introvert” before, but I like it!
July 11, 2011 @ 4:06 pm
That’s pretty much exactly how I feel. I used to think I was antisocial, but I’m not. I’m very social one-on-one with people I share interests with (I’m abysmally bad at small talk) or small groups of friends. I also enjoy reading Susan Cain’s blog. I think reading there was the first time I realized there’s not something inherently wrong with me because I find that big party style socializing so exhausting.
July 11, 2011 @ 4:15 pm
Someone one gave me the following definiton of introversion and extroversion.
An introvert gains energy in quiet/solitude and loses energy in busy/social situations.
Converserly, an extrovert does the reverse. Gains energy in busy, social situations and loses energy in solitude and quiet.
You just exactly described the former. It’s a definition I certainly fit myself.
It may not cover everything, but this is a definition I’ve always felt had a solid basis to it.
July 11, 2011 @ 5:36 pm
I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one.
July 11, 2011 @ 10:26 pm
There’s nothing wrong with it at all. I’m not as “bad”, but there are times when I just can’t take it anymore. The emotional cost of being in a crowd is more than I can give. One on one, or small groups, I’m usually fine. Larger groups, though begin to drain more than I get back.
July 12, 2011 @ 9:30 am
Parties *are* work.
I have people I love, but I need a break from even them every so often. Just a few hours of peace and quiet. It’s not personal, I just gotta recharge.
So, parties. Definitely work. I have to mentally prepare and psych up and get my game face on first. It helps if the food’s good.
July 12, 2011 @ 6:07 pm
I’m another party hater. Well, I guess I TOLERATE them. And every time my family gets together, it IS a party, because my family is large. So I end up at a lot of parties, and it really doesn’t get easier.
And yeah, small groups are great!
July 13, 2011 @ 3:45 pm
I am, generally, the most boisterous and outgoing person I know. I’m loud, I’m bubbly, I talk a thousand miles a minute. Except that I really don’t do large groups of people well. Okay, that’s PARTIALLY a lie – if there is no need or expectation for me to acknowledge or interact with the people, I don’t mind it so much if I’m in the mood for it, though it is draining. Street fair type things with booths that sell cute quirky stuff? I am ALL OVER THAT, if I have a desire to wander around browsing booths that sell cute quirky stuff. Sometimes I’m not up for it, and then it sucks – I had to fight through huge crowds of people during Ithacafest a month and a half ago to get to where I work. And then more fighting through to get supper. -_- Not my best day.
BUT, you stick me in a large group of people at, like, a party? Like you, the more people in the group, the quieter I’ll get, until I’m holed up in a corner somewhere with a book and a drink, trying to pretend I’m not hiding.
So, yeah, kinda know what you mean. ♥ Power to the introverts? 😀