Steven, my husband, has party anxiety.
I should say, pre-party anxiety, because he’s always fine once he gets to the party.
Like the one last night. The minute we got there, I looked at him like, “See? Aren’t you glad we came?” And he looked back at me like, “OK, this ain’t so bad,” because we’d just stepped out onto one of the most beautiful, shmancy-pantsy private NYC rooftops we’ve ever seen.
(Think airy penthouse apartment that’s half castle-top, half greenhouse, made up of soaring casement windows that perfectly frame both the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. And then, a patio that goes on for miles and makes you weep with sadness that it belongs not to you, but to some guy who founded a startup that does something cool and pro-social with solar panels. Because of course he did.)
We almost didn’t go, because whenever we’re supposed to go to a party, Steven gets what he calls “flu-ish.”
Run down, achey bones, and an urgent need to be on the couch…
…watching either football, a PBS cooking show, or Tori Spelling running from the Murderer She Married, on WE. (Check your local listings)
These are all symptoms of what we call “Stranger Danger.”
It’s a term normally used for kids to warn them away from anyone who pulls up in a van and offers gum drops.
I think the kid is supposed to yell “Stranger Danger!” and run.
We use Stranger Danger for an off-label purpose: any situation where Steven might not know people.
He’s afraid of 2 main things that come with Stranger Danger.
- Standing around looking stupid — which, sorry, pretending to be engrossed in your phone doesn’t solve.
- Small talk that’s hard to get out of. “Well, I’m going to get another drink from the bar. Do you want anything?” And DAMMIT IF THEY SAY YES!
You’d think running restaurants, Steven’s career, is a strange job for someone with Stranger Danger. But it’s actually perfect, because there’s no standing around with no one to talk to — he wishes he had time for that — and if he does talk to strangers, the second there’s a lull in the conversation, he can bolt away without a word.
It’s understood: either a grease fire is raging in the kitchen or a waiter needs help voiding a charge for a side of zucchini that table 23 never got.
And, there’s one other bit of awkward he gets to avoid in a restaurant: how to say goodbye.
In a restaurant, the customers do the goodbye work. They pay their check, and then, if all goes well, they say, “Thanks so much, bye!”
But to leave a party, Steven feels he has to concoct a story.
Last night when he was antsy to get back home, Steven weakly told everyone the tale he’d planned before we left: “We’ve gotta run because we’re making dinner and I have sauce on.”
“‘Sauce on’?” our friends repeated, hugging us goodbye. “OK.”
I’d already told him not to use that line, because a) you don’t need a story to leave a party, it’s what people do at parties — they come and they leave — and b) who goes to another house for an hour and leaves “sauce on”? Wilma Flintstone?
It was true that we were planning to make dinner and if we waited too long we’d lose our motivation and waste the groceries I’d bought. Basil never keeps.
But c’mon. “Sauce on”? Like we just left a pan of cherry tomatoes bursting and sizzling all over the stove? Steven claimed it could legitimately be a slow cooker, but it still sounded ridiculous to me.
“We don’t have sauce on” I mouthed to our friends.
They shrugged. S’okay, you’re allowed to leave a party.
Steven’s mad that I threw him under the bus, and he’ll probably be mad that I did it again here, so to even the embarrassment score I’ll admit that on our way out, I reached in a bowl to grab some more corn chips. But it was dark, and what I thought were chips was red pepper hummus, so I got a big handful of that instead.
Do you have Stranger Danger?
Do you make up stories about why you have to leave before you even get to the party?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
I don’t have stories about why I need to leave a party, per se (although I think that’s brilliant), but I do practice Things to Say.
I actually discovered that when I was singing opera, because nothing on this green earth is worse for an introvert than someone coming to say nice things to you after you’ve already SUNG ARIAS ON STAGE FOR THEM for gosh sake what more do these people want from me.
So I came up with appropriate responses and rotated through them. It helped so much.
I don’t prepare an excuse, I first need to see if the party is one where I’d like to stay a while or not. The party we hung out at recently for example, Laura, was one that I couldn’t get my stranger dangerin’ husband to, and that I “almost didn’t come” to. But then, the prospect of sitting around chatting with YOU until the wee hours became much more interesting than going home to join my husband on the couch as he watched Bojack Horseman for the 8th time though. Nothing against Bojack, it is a treasure of a show and I heartily approve of the multiple rewatches. You were just much more interesting 🙂
I made up my own party rule at the last party I attended. It worked. I just told people the rule and then we even had something to talk about.
Rule #1. No introductions. Because we’re all going to forget the names anyway. Why pretend like we even care?
Best thing is when it’s time to leave, you can just say “It was nice not to meet you! I hope we get to not meet again some time!”
no, I’m definitely the person people are wondering, “where’d ebony go?” and texting me 30m after I left. because I left. becuase once you decide to start saying goodbye, you’re not getting out of there for at least another 30m, and that half hour will be spent enduring lots of, “awww you’re leavingggg? whyyyyy???” and the sauce story, like 5 times. and judgemental looks, and “tsk, tsk.”
no, just leave. goodbyes are for suckers. according to me, it’s not rude at all.
I was hugely relieved to know that my party-departing style not only has a name, but it even sounds rather elegant (dirty?): the French leave. Bonsoir, amis. It’s like I was never here.
margi W says
No way does he have sauce on. Socks, maybe. Maybe he means he has socks on (if he’s feeling flu-ish, he may deliriously replace the word “sauce” with “socks”). He can’t have sauce on, unless it’s in a slow cooker, because stove top sauce has to be stirred every few minutes. If it’s in a slow cooker, you can leave that sauce for many hours without concern that it will scorch (unlike socks, which are likely to scorch if they are in a slow cooker), so sauce cannot be an excuse for leaving the party early. Next time he gives you that line about feeling flu-ish, you can retort, “funny, you don’t look flu-ish”.
Nancy VKH says
I am with Steven. I always have my excuse at the ready. I have a 2 hour party expiration date and then I must bolt. I hate saying goodbye so I never have to use my excuse. My sister recently pointed out what I thought was my brilliant little secret, that I just disappear. Unfortunately, with kids, it’s harder to disappear and they never want to leave the party.