Yesterday my husband and I went to my friend’s birthday party. Over her life, my friend has drawn together an interesting circle of people. Lovers past and present, girlfriends, housemates past and present, neighborhood people. I fall in the former housemate category: I lived in her house for six months about 7 years ago, when I first separated from my former husband.
My friend has casual parties a few times a year that bring the various parts of her circle together. These parties are filled with booze and banter. As are most parties, it’s true, but there is something different about my friend’s parties. Her people are more free. Free to drink a lot or not at all. Free to be social or sit in a corner doing a puzzle. Free to be raunchy. The average age of the guests is about 48, but this statement is does not tell you much because the guests are outliers and have youthful spirits as compared with people their age.
I am a person who is very introverted. It takes a bit for me to warm up. Once warm, I will become very, very verbal, clever, and lively. Warming up has historically involved several drinks. It’s hard for me to think of a party held by this friend where I did not get some degree of drunk.
Until last night. I went, stayed sober, and had about as much fun as I have ever had. I bantered and joked with the best of the them. I played a ridiculous game that involved bending over to pick up a paper bag with your teeth while standing on one leg and not allowing either hand to touch the ground. Being sober didn’t help my game. My husband, who was drinking beer, won. Nobody remarked on the fact I was not drinking. It was not an issue.
I even held my husband’s cup in my hand for several minutes and did not choose to sip.
The main difference I noticed was that my shy self was less anxious and more calm. I found it easier to listen to and connect with people, most of whom were acquaintances but not confidants. I was still funny, but maybe less silly. I was relieved that I wasn’t running a subterranean dialogue with myself about how much I could drink and not ruin the next day. Walking home through the humid, buggy night with my husband, I felt calm and happy, holding my experience of the night in vivid focus.