By Anne T. Donahue
Christmas is basically here, and while I’m not at it personally, I have no idea how in the year of our lord 2023 I have no idea how to balance anything, which explains why I will be showing up to my family’s gathering on Saturday with approximately zero gifts. (It’s exam time! What do you want from me?)
The thing is, I do love seeing people. I love my friends! My family’s cool! Everything’s fine! But also, man alive do I ever need to leave large get-togethers for a few minutes at least twice an hour and recreate my new favourite Ikea commercial. Whose fault is this? Mine! I’m still very much learning how not to enter a room at maximum volume and like I’m campaigning for something. (Anything. Like I am just thrilled to campaign.)
I’m not an extrovert and I’m not an introvert. (I’m just a girl, sitting in front of her laptop, watching Choppedreruns while my cats snore.) But damn it, sometimes I just need a minute. So with holiday pandemonium in mind, here’s my guide to discreetly leaving a room to stand by yourself and make it look like there’s a reason for it.
Step one: grab your phone, open your email, look concerned, walk away
I mean, don’t just walk away. Personally, I like to walk away after saying “Oohhh…” and acting like I’ve just received news that cannot wait despite the fact that I am a freelancer and no one I work for would send me an emergency email on a weekend. (I’m a writer! Nobody is thinking about me! In a good way!)
The thing is, this is a seamless transition from a conversation you may not want to participate in to a gorgeous few-minutes-where-you-can-look-at-your-phone (and think about all the shrimp you’ll eat over the next little while). When you’re inevitably asked if everything’s okay, just hold your phone back up and say “People!” like you’re at your wit’s end due to someone’s stupidity. (And it’s not a lie! People, as a rule, are bananas!)
Step two: “Can I grab you a drink?”
I’ve learned that making yourself useful is the fastest way to be allowed to leave a place and go to another place.
“But Anne!” you might be saying. “Why not just go to the bathroom?”
LOL OKAY. And then for the rest of the night you can field questions about your intestinal health because you’ve gone to the bathroom six times in two hours, and you’ve been nursing a Perrier for 45 minutes.
Anyway, all this to say: go to where the fridge is, and become the person who goes to the fridge most. You’ve got everybody’s drinks! You’re everyone’s favourite person! You now get to spend several extra minutes all by yourself while deciding between Bubly flavours!
Step three: Form an alliance
One Thanksgiving, I was tired and cranky and hit the point where I knew that if I didn’t excuse myself from the action (see: being social when I was hangry) I would start to expose myself as the harpy I am.
Thus, I grabbed my aunt who’s house it was and said, “Give me a job, I need job.” And whether it was the fear in my eyes or the firmness of my grip, she handed me a bag of coleslaw, a bottle of dressing and said, “Mix that.” And reader, I did. For 25 minutes. And by the time we all sat down to eat, I was a person again and I could brag about having made the salad.
Step four: “Speaking of which…”
I hate lying, so I will not do it. This is why my favourite “I need a second” tactic is to participate in a conversation or six, laugh at the appropriate times, ask the quintessential questions, and then hold up my glass and/or point to anything that suggests I need to move to that location, and then move away. This makes everyone think you have a new, fun inside joke (speaking of what? Let them decide!) while creating an out that requires no explanation. Why are you holding your glass so weird? That’s your mystery. And now you are sitting on the front step, petting the dog, all by yourself.
Steph five: Befriend the animals
And I don’t mean “just pet them.” Befriend them. They are your family now. Bond so intensely that everybody begins to ask if the animal actually belongs to you. “Where’s the cat?” is my favourite question to ask in the middle of being cornered about a topic I don’t feel like talking about. “There he is!” is something I’ve said to a very large dog as though the dog enjoys my presence. (He does not.)
No one will ever break the eye contact you are making with someone’s pet. (Because they are freaked out.) No one will ever pick up said animal and ruin your connection. And above all else, the minute you begin using your animal-talking voice, you will alienate everyone enough to ensure you will have more than a few minutes by yourself. Hell, if you play your cards right, you may never have to go to anything again ever. At all.
Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!