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What Happens When You Take an Introvert to an Exquisite Party? The Before, During and After Effects of Socializing Gallantly

Getting there

cocktail party vintageWas I dressed appropriately? My date said, Jeans and a nice sweater, but it was a holiday party at a grand home on Lake Minnetonka with live music provided by a one-of-a-kind Steinway and an upright bass. That sounded like old-school cocktail attire to me.

I wore a tasteful red cardigan with a pair of expensive jeans and low heeled dress shoes.

As we drove to the party, I felt the way I often feel when going on a first date — a little anxious, heartbeat quickened, perspiration pooling. Even though this was not our first date, it was our first big social outing as a couple. How would we socialize together? How would I get along with his friends? Would I be quiet or effusive? I can go either way at parties.

Arriving

We walked in through the back door which led into the kitchen. The counter was laden with a spiral cut ham, warm artichoke dip, homemade tortilla chips, Italian meatballs, a lentil salad and several other festive dishes. The center island held stemware, wine and champagne. I uncharacteristically accepted a glass of red. It seemed like a red wine crowd. My man led the way through the people and the house, saying hello and introducing me briefly to those we encountered. On our way we passed: the classically decorated Christmas tree; great staircases wrapped in fine wood banisters and illuminated garland; large windows darkened by nightfall but still allowing glimpses of an extensive porch and the revered lake; a stunning portrait of the now deceased lady of the house; a Picasso, vases, sculptures and other artwork from around the world. The home, built in the late 1800s, had all the necessary but subtle updates to make it extraordinary now. For example, the music coming from the grand piano and band in the living room could be heard throughout the house thanks to an unseen but flawless sound system.

After a tour of the house, we decided to grab plates of food and join the host and several other guests at a large round glass table near the Christmas tree. I sat down next to a couple who I was told lived next door. The husband, *Todd, told me he was a fireman. The fact that he lived next door and was a fireman did not make sense financially but I assuaged the incongruence by assuming he or his wife inherited or made money in a way they did not want to disclose. Todd and I chatted easily. He showed me pictures of their grandson in the tub and told me of his newly purchased ranch in Texas. Todd and I had ties to several of the same places, including Texas and Chicago, so we had plenty of conversation fodder. He made me laugh and at one point declared me charming. He was a definite extrovert. I wanted to stick close to him the rest of the night, but the night was young. I had to mingle more. Damn it.

Settling in

We moved into the main room with the band and conversation nooks. We chose a cozy, well-pillowed, sofa in the corner. There was already one gentleman sitting there but there was room for us. The singer accompanying the piano was a close friend of the host. He came over and talked with us. He introduced us to the other man on the sofa, stating that he was an old friend of his. The slight man with soft-looking hair sharing the seat with us soon told us his name was *Dan and that he taught theater at a local high school. He mentioned he was contemplating going to Japan and teaching English after he retired in a year. I would have guessed Dan was in his late 40s but when he mentioned retirement and his 34 year-old daughter I knew I had miscalculated. He seemed to come alive talking with me one on one. I pegged him for an introvert. We had a delightful conversation about Asian culture and harmony.

Feeling confident

A little while later, my man and I ended up dancing to a Christmas carol played by the band. No one else was dancing but a couple of people videoed us with their phones.

Richard Lack painting

Painting by Richard F. Lack

After that, I had a couple of conversations with other female guests while my guy went his separate way and spoke with his friends. One of the women was an artist and showed me a beautiful painting in the lower level of the house by Richard F. Lack. She spoke of its European and scientific style as well as its spiritual message. I ate it up.

Another woman talked about children and the local schools with me. My comfort zone for sure.

Pushing it

At one point, my man asked if I’d passed out any of my cards. He promotes with ease. I promote with infinite hesitation. He believes in me and wants me to tell others of space2live and my work. I just want to talk to people, experience their stories and survive. I gave out one card the whole night and it was to the mother who talked to me about kids and schools. She’ll probably call me looking for a tutor recommendation.

Done

Eventually, I ended up sitting in a circle of people, including the host, listening to others talk about art and history. The conversation was inspired by some of the real life artifacts present in the room.The circle of people was an intriguing mix of artists and millionaires.The size of the circle and the fact that I did not feel knowledgable in this area kept me at minimal participation. My guy emerged from the kitchen and whispered in my ear,  Ready to go? I nodded.

Headed home

After a long Minnesota goodbye — 30 minutes of talking and hugging our way out the back door — we made it to the car and drove home. We chatted easily and with fond remembrances of the night’s events. It was nice to have a companion to rehash the party with out loud.

Done… again

The next part is hard to admit. Although I enjoyed talking about the woman in fetal positionparty and having my guy hold me after we got to my house, I did not want to be touched any more than that. All of the circulating at the party was enchanting and fun but I was peopled out. Throughout the night, others had been in my physical space and now I wanted to protect that space, make it my own again. Flashback to times in my marriage after being home with kids all day, needing time to myself at night to repair my boundaries, to feel whole again. This is hard to explain and I believe even harder to hear from a partner. My man is also a self-proclaimed introvert so he has a good understanding but it is still a difficult feeling to convey and accept.

Good as new

The next day, after a decent night’s sleep, I felt open and warm mentally and physically again. I just had to have that space to recover.

What are your party stages? What do you find most enjoyable about attending parties? How do you feel afterwards? 

If this post spoke to you, you may also love:

 Understanding the Introvert Cycle: Why We Go From Irritable to Ever-Loving

Letting Love Breathe: The Space That Makes an Introvert Relationship Erotic and Playful Again

There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert.

I’m Sorry I Hurt You in Order to Save Myself: What Introverts Feel but Don’t Always Say

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18 Comments

  1. JL January 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    In the post above, you say your man is a “self proclaimed introvert” Being with him for a few months now, do you agree with him that he is?

    • Brenda Knowles January 8, 2015 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond. Life got away from me. I do agree that my guy is an introvert. I had doubts at first because he is so active and seemed to always be seeking out others for company but the truth is he gets very absorbed in tasks that help other people. People often call him for help with things around the house. He does not call them and he does not do it for the social aspects. He helps because he enjoys doing the TASKS. They provide his mental processing and escape time.
      Thanks for your thoughtful question.

  2. Nicki January 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    This is by far the most accurate description of my own party experiences that I have ever read. It’s interesting to me because I’m definitely an introvert, but I’m not shy. I like to contribute to conversations, if I feel that I have something to contribute. I am not someone who needs to talk just for the sake of talking and sometimes that can be misconstrued. I’m single and have not yet found someone who makes the experience any easier for me, but I often find that that helps me grow as an individual and forces me to interact more than I would otherwise. However, if I’ve been to a large social gathering, I need to spend the next day alone or with limited interactions. I am just not a party-all-weekend type of person. Which is especially hard to explain this to people who do not feel this way. I appreciate your posts very much. You have a very clear and eloquent way of verbalizing these experiences.

    • Brenda Knowles January 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words. I always like to hear when my writing hits home with someone.:) I am like you in that I cannot party all weekend. I would be exhausted on Monday and that, in my opinion, would be counter to the purpose of a weekend. Just last week, after attending a fun and vibrant New Year’s Eve party, my guy tells me we’ve been invited to another party (dinner party for 10) the next night. My knee jerk reaction was, “Oh no. I don’t know if I have the energy.” But we went and had a great time. We are both fairly good at circulating and enjoying people. The fallout came over the weekend when we both ended up sick and spent the majority of time sleeping or taking it easy. Even when we willingly push ourselves into fun social situations, our bodies tell us it’s time to retreat. We need to honor that introvert cycle of play/socialize, rest, play/socialize, rest. Thanks for reading and commenting. I truly appreciate your presence.

  3. www.laurensapala.com December 29, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    After a party I actually feel wired instead of tired. This sounds odd for an introvert, but I don’t mean “wired” in a good way. More like my brain can’t stop buzzing and processing all of the energy. I have trouble sleeping and then my exhaustion truly hits the next morning.

    • Brenda Knowles December 29, 2014 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      I’ve felt that way too Lauren. I leave the party wired but end up feeling tired and a little irritable an hour or two later. I just need to re-coat myself in soothing quiet and solitude. 🙂

  4. LB December 29, 2014 at 8:41 am - Reply

    “Peopled out” Oh, how I love that phrase! I never heard anyone else use it before.

    I loved your story and your descriptions of your different phases. I think I follow pretty much the same phases when I go to a party, but I would have reached the “pushing it” and “done” phases a lot sooner. The pre-party anxiety I can also definitely relate to. In fact, I have to applaud you for going to a party with a new date at a location where you knew virtually no one. That might have been a deal killer for me. You didn’t describe your feelings in the days leading up to the party, but my anxiety would have been at a pretty high level. I would have had to force myself to go. Twenty years ago I probably would have opted out. Now? Well…. I have matured (obviously), and learned better ways to cope with that anxiety, but I’m still really not sure.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Brenda Knowles December 29, 2014 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting LB. I was actually excited about the party. I had a feeling I would meet interesting people and my date is rather good at making me feel comfortable. It wasn’t until the night of the party that I was summoning up the energy to be ‘sparkly’ and confident. I always get a little nervous just before an outing with lots of people I don’t know yet, I almost never turn down an invitation. My curiosity and my introversion sometimes collide.;)

  5. David Kanigan December 27, 2014 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Great post Brenda. I felt like I was right there along for the ride at this party.

    • Brenda Knowles December 27, 2014 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Thanks David. I had fun writing/telling this real life story.:)

  6. Orange Rhino December 27, 2014 at 1:40 am - Reply

    I find that being around a large group of people I am expected to interact with (as opposed to walking alone through a mall or down inner-city streets) aggravates my sleep disorder so badly that I won’t sleep until I’ve had six or more alone-time hours.
    A big party of old friends and relatives (as at my Mom’s 100th birthday party at a restaurant) is good, but hardly the norm. An evening at work (I speak in public to strangers twice a week for a living) is the price one pays for one’s lifestyle, but I’d hate to go on a first date like the one you describe. I’m a heterosexual man and would only go to such a party with a long-term girlfriend. Afterward, I’d need a lot of quiet time reading at home (and perhaps some extra medication) before getting sleepy. She’d know not to wake me up before two or three PM if she stayed over. When I was married in graduate school and didn’t know I was an introvert, my wife could not understand how I could wait in bed with her until after she fell asleep then sit up happily in the extra bedroom I call my library studying until dawn. She really hated waking up in the middle of the night and finding me reading in the other room.

    Had your most helpful column been around then, I would have been more able to explain it to her. I grew up at a time when wanting/needing to be alone was seen as some kind of social or mental disease, especially for a man. Keep up the advocacy, Brenda. Who knows how many thousands of people need your forum for our thoughts and feelings. I learn something every time I read it.

    • Brenda Knowles December 27, 2014 at 9:00 am - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experiences OR. I relate to them.
      It does feel like I need a real balance between social output and quiet input. I have to balance my outward life with my inward. Sleep is a big help. Space (physical, time and mental) is my oxygen, my recovery medicine. It’s so hard to explain because I also have a love of intimacy and fun. I simply have to volley back and forth.
      I know what it’s like to need that alone time after your loved ones go to sleep. I always need time to myself after the kids go to bed. I spent hours reading in the other room at night. My ex-husband didn’t fully understand that. He took my need for solitude as personal rejection.
      This party was not a first date (thank god, that would have been a huge test) but it was the first big social gathering for my current relationship. We have been going out for a couple of months, still learning about each other. We’ll see how our temperaments mesh…
      Thank you as always for your insightful comments.

  7. Gary Rintelmann December 26, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    ALL your posts speak to me. There’s always something that says “wow. yeah…that is ME.” Thank you for having this site and ALL the insight.

    • Brenda Knowles December 27, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

      I am so thrilled my stories resonate.:) Thank you for your kind words.

  8. John Anthony James (@JohnJamesOZ) December 26, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Great post – and so true – it’s not always the party and socialising that can be difficult for introverts – it’s the aftermath and the recovery time we need that’s significant – this is what extroverts don’t always see, and why it’s difficult for them to understand us sometimes – because it’s what happens in private, later on, that marks us as introverts just as much as how we “behave” when socialising.

    • Brenda Knowles December 27, 2014 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Yes, I think most of us have learned how to ‘extrovert’ throughout our days but when we get the chance we are eager to let down and take off that mask. It’s how people react to this crucial un-masking that is tricky and sometimes unnerving to us. We need the downtime but somehow don’t feel like it is 100% acceptable to ask for it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment JAJ.

  9. kimberlyharding December 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    great posting. My husband is my literal rock in any and all social situations. They do not stress him out at all. He is the epitome of ease and I lobe being able to lean on him:)

    • Brenda Knowles December 27, 2014 at 8:41 am - Reply

      It is comforting isn’t it to have someone solid by your side at social gatherings? I admire that ease and energy.

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