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.