Fitting in is difficult, especially at social gatherings. There are those of us who are born to schmooze, and those of us who have to psych ourselves up mentally for almost every social interaction we have. This can be exhausting, especially during the holidays. Going from work to a party to a small gathering to drinks with out of town friends can start to feel like a tremendous, energy-zapping obligation. What do I say? Who do I talk to? Do I know anyone at this party? When can I go hide in the bathroom? Have I been here long enough to justify leaving so I can go home and eat a sandwich in my underwear? As someone who has asked herself all of these questions, I have developed a series of party tricks, if you will, to help me fit in at every holiday party.
Stay close to the snack table
The snack table is your place of refuge at any holiday party, but it can also be a double-edged sword, as this is the location that provides the greatest safety net while simultaneously puts you in the line of fire for unnatural social interactions. Everyone loves the food table. A great way to make yourself seem completely normal at the food table is to talk to your fellow snackers about how good the food is. Know a fact about food? Now’s the time to dish (haha, see what I’ve done? Don’t try this joke with strangers, it won’t land). Think the baba ganoush is delicious? Might as well turn to your right and tell your friend’s boyfriend’s friend that you think so. Shoving fistfuls of pita bread into your mouth while commenting on how great it all tastes is a surefire way to fit in at any holiday party.
Ask lots of questions
If you can get someone talking about themselves, you won’t have to do much else except pay attention enough to keep them going by asking follow up questions. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you stop asking questions. What do you do? Where do you work? Do you like your job? Do you have any kids? How many? Are you ever worried about the future? Do you ever get that acute feeling that none of this matters and we’re all doomed to die anyway so what is the point of all of these meaningless holiday parties? Keep them talking. That’s the key.
Offer to get people drinks from the kitchen
This will not only make you the most popular person at the party, but it will also provide you with some much needed respite from talking about the renovations everyone’s had done on their houses. The key to this trick is to take as many drink orders as you can before scampering off into the kitchen to fetch them. It truly doesn’t matter if you remember the list, you’re not coming back out of that kitchen for a LONG time. By the time you reemerge, everyone will have forgotten that you were bringing them their drinks anyway, and have probably gone and gotten their own. You’re safe.
Find another person at the party that you feel comfortable hanging around with, and follow them to every conversation. I like to call this move The Party Shadow. You don’t even have to listen to what anyone is talking about! If anyone looks at you expectantly, waiting for your contribution to the conversation, pretend you’ve dropped a button and can’t find it. You are a part of this party!
Hide in the bathroom
Pretend that you’re waiting in a line to use the bathroom all night. If anyone lines up behind you, make small talk about needing to pee for awhile before “realizing” that the door was unlocked the whole time (!!). You goof! Head into the bathroom and hide for a few minutes, come back out and repeat the cycle of waiting again.
Remember that at any social obligation you find yourself in this holiday season, there has got to be at least one other person there who is as stressed out about fitting in as you are. Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. It only seems like you are because we’re all trying so desperately to be accepted.