Today is party day. My wife invited a lot of people — family and friends. I know what to expect, I went through this circus many times. We will greet each other, sit, talk, drink, laugh, eat and then climax: happy whatever!
The talk usually starts with a “how are you,” then revolves around whichever topic is mentioned. The fun things we did are brought up, the interesting things we saw are emphasized. Then anything goes: hearsay, rumors, news from TV or from other members of the family or of famous people. Who’s good, who’s bad. Anything that pops up can become the subject of discussion. Opinions are expressed. Jokes are inserted.
Laughing is important to keep the mood happy. When speaking, a touch of exaggeration is necessary to keep the listeners entertained. Sometimes there is originality but most of the time opinions are second-hand ideas, the repeating of things heard elsewhere. Finally a clever “expert” will make a concluding remark and the subject will change.
Fortunately, there is respect in our group. No fighting. There is a small chance of an argument between the mother-in-law and her daughter, but nothing serious. Three languages are in use: French, Portuguese and English. It can get confusing because some of us understand and speak only one or two of those languages. No one bothers translating. You pick up what you can. The discussions rarely amount to anything anyway, except maybe laughter.
I think most of the participants just enjoy the feeling of togetherness. It doesn’t really matter what is said. Compliments are always welcome. Funny things are remembered. Polite smiles are expected, fake ones for photos.
The bulk of the herd should arrive around 5 p.m. and leave at 9. We will be crammed on the main floor of our medium-sized house. I will have to endure a minimum of four hours of movement, noise and interaction requests. I don’t know how to prepare for it except to write and express my apprehension of this upcoming inescapable situation. I usually fare pretty well, though. I take the role of the bartender, mixing drinks and serving the thirsty.
I’m more of a listener, and once in a while I will throw a sarcastic comment that will get a few of them rolling and the others frowning. Two or three such interruptions is usually the most I can afford in one sitting. I usually drink in order to help my mind relax, but I want to try not drinking at all this time.
I feel alienated in a crowd and never know where I fit in. I try not to stay too long in the same spot. I walk around, pretending I’m going somewhere, trying to stay cool. It’s hard to engage in any sort of intelligent conversation because of the chaos and noise. Everyone knows that I’m disabled, that I don’t go out much and that I’m a bit depressed, so they don’t bother asking me what I’ve been doing lately because it’s kind of useless.
My mother-in-law usually asks me “how are you,” I reply “fine” and that’s the end of our conversation. What else can I say? The truth is: “I’m sad because your daughter ruined me financially,” but that would be a bad thing to say. And the purpose of life is to be fucking good, right? Or at least appear to be…
The clock is ticking. I want this day to be over quickly. I don’t get what others enjoy in these gatherings. I understand though, because I once experienced the warmth of being with a group of friends in the past. I’m not sure why I changed, though. Maybe it’s just part of growing up. Or maybe I lost my friends and I don’t know how to make new ones. It’s a mystery.
I’m an introvert, I know this much, and that’s a good enough explanation, I guess…