Go to a party. Be in a relatively bad mood from the moment you leave your house, as this was a party you never had any real interest in attending. You would have rather stayed home and watched movies under a blanket, even if that would mean accepting chastising commentary from everyone who went out without you. Wonder why there is such a stigma around having quiet weekends in when you are going through an otherwise busy time in your life. Know that your friends are only being kind and inclusive when they say “you have to come out,” though, and be appreciative of the fact that they want to see you there.
Grab yourself a drink, even though you’re not really interested in drinking. Feel the condensation bead into your palm, soaking through the cocktail napkin you’ve wrapped around the glass. Give a slight hand wave to people you know, and perhaps a mouthed “hey,” which is enough to acknowledge their presence without having to open a conversation you have no interest in carrying out. Watch the people who brought you to the party quickly be sucked into their own warm, familiar social nests. (You resent them slightly for having left you alone by the bar, but realize that it would be unfair to expect them to babysit you all night.)
Look at everyone who seems to know each other so well and be so interested in what the other person has to say. Feel as though each conversation is in a language you’re vaguely familiar with but stopped progressing in after an intermediate course — you can get the jist of what they’re talking about, but the context and nuance is indecipherable. Listen as the individual snippets of inside jokes and gossip become a soft, low hum that fills you and washes over your ears, back and forth, back and forth. Feel your own thoughts begin to lose meaning in such an overwhelming sea of half-noise and meaningless chatter. Occasionally want to inject yourself into a group of laughing partygoers, but feel that the effort would be akin to explaining what an atom is to a toddler playing with wooden blocks. Realize that the mere thought of striking up conversation is exhausting.
Wish that there was a way you could explain this to people, that your temporary inability to socialize is not indicative of some sociopathic disdain for humanity as a whole. Know that people will probably be thinking that you are antisocial and strange, or standoffish and smug, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. You feel no sense of superiority, only vague confusion about exactly what everyone else finds so interesting. Wish you could form your own circle in the corner of the party for people who don’t mind being around each other but who find the self-insertion into pre-established groups as daunting as it is unrewarding.
Be asked “Why aren’t you having any fun?” or “Come on, why don’t you go talk to them over there?” and cringe at the implications. Know that people want to set you up with a potential suitor, or introduce you to a large group of new people, or coax you out of a shell that you’re not even positive exists. Feel that it is perhaps this misunderstanding, this fundamental belief that your reservedness at a party is indicative of greater moral failing, which makes you feel so profoundly alone. Feel the hum of talk around you rise until it is a cacophonous roar, something which makes you want to scratch your ears and close your eyes and make everyone be quiet at once so you can exit in a bit of peace.
Learn to fear parties like this — parties at which networking and acquaintances and loud, self-congratulatory conversations are the unspoken theme — as they inspire in you a more profound sense of loneliness than any number of consecutive nights at home could ever produce. Wish that anyone, even just one person, could look at you with a knowing glance that says “It’s okay, I hate it, too, and that doesn’t make you weird.” Look for your friends to say goodbye but, upon not finding them after a half-hearted search, decide to simply text them after you’re already well out the door. Thank them for bringing you, and don’t mention how much you regret having left your apartment. Make a mental note to decline the next time you’re invited to something like this, telling them you “would rather stay home alone, where things are less lonely.”