Below the Beltway

Gene Weingarten: Postparty depression

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, December 20, 2009

A few months ago, I learned something that was hard to believe. I immediately phoned Tom the Butcher, who is my editor and one of my closest friends.

Me: They're throwing you a retirement party tomorrow. I wasn't invited.

Tom: Right. I was asked to pick the guest list, and I didn't include you.

Me: Everyone I know will be there.

Tom: Yes.

Me:

Tom: Are you okay?

Me: I'm choking up a little here.

Tom: Me, too. It's okay, man. It's what friends are for.

Tom's decision not to invite me was an act of extreme graciousness, the crowning moment of a friendship that has lasted a quarter-century. And not even telling me about it? Even better. Tom knows not only how much I hate to go to parties, but also how much I dread the approach of a party I have to go to, and how much neurotic self-loathing I suffer when I know there is a party I really should go to but won't. Tom had spared me all of it.

As the holiday party season swirls around us again, as though we were eggs and it was a giant ostrich trying to hatch us beneath its unclean personal toilet area, I am reminded, once again, of the hideously deformed thing that passes for my soul.

I know there are people -- decent, normal people like you -- for whom parties are a welcome opportunity to reconnect with old friends, interact socially with co-workers, flirt, gossip and otherwise enjoy the company of other humans in relaxed, convivial surroundings. To me, parties are as relaxing and convivial as a job interview; I feel intense pressure to perform. And that turns everyone else -- even people I like a lot -- into steely-eyed, thin-lipped personnel from Human Resources.


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