Oh fuck! I’d forgotten all about it, which is unusual for me. A social occasion can prey on my mind for weeks ahead of the actual event. You see, I don’t socialize all that much, and so when a social event is peering back at me from my calendar a kind of dread comes over me. A social entry in my calendar can totally ruin a month or more prior to it.
Once upon a time I would think that I was unusual to entertain such dread for social occasions, but I’m wiser now. Most people dread them to varying degrees, but they indulge because not to indulge would be more painful. In fact, many people are so ill suited to their own company that they willingly expose themselves to the nastiest, most narcissistic bores for hours on end. Anything, other than spend some time in their own company. But even so, if you can catch someone in a moment of honesty they will tell you that most of their socializing is superficial, boring, and completely unsatisfying.
For the person who absolutely cannot bear to be in their own company a social occasion will often start with an extended dressing up ritual. Such rituals are an integral part of the whole exercise. The dressing up ritual instills a sense of purpose, and a promise of something new. Experience is no teacher here, since the thousand hellish prior social happenings will not be allowed to destroy the hope and promise that flowers in the heart during the dressing up ritual. Maybe a shower, the rancid smell of the latest fashionable aftershave or perfume, a new item of clothing or two, and at the end of the ritual a sense of expectation. For the person uneasy with themself the dressing up ritual will have consumed an hour or more; an hour of total distraction – priceless. The alternative to this for the socialite is boredom.
So, let’s get to the meetup itself. Before I begin it does have to be admitted that some socializing can be fun and stimulating – but alas it is the exception. The higher up the social ladder we climb the more likely that it becomes mere posturing and appearances: it becomes more formal, and there is no fun in formality. Bearing this in mind let’s analyze the average social exchange. First of all we should remember that the dressing up ritual not only serves the purpose of providing distraction for an hour or so, and filling us with hope and expectation, but it also serves the purpose of stating who we are. And so the meetup is an opportunity to display that we are not some hopeless losers. Again, the higher up the social ladder the more it becomes necessary to impress. This process of impressing others usually involves bragging – about money, property, vacations, status, and a dozen other dull and meaningless things. If you are on the receiving end of this bragging you will become bored, and the only antidote is to do your own bragging, if you can get a word in edge ways. The social meetup becomes a competition to see who can bore the other most. As far as non-bragging conversation goes there will be a competition to see who can talk about the most meaningless drivel, otherwise known as small talk. The English hold the Olympic gold medal for small talk – the number or layers of paper in toilet paper, the best place to save a couple of cents on beer or wine, the exact size of cabin luggage allowed by various airlines. You might find that you need to excuse yourself for ten or fifteen minutes – anything – the rest room, a fake call to your unwell aunt Gladys, and then you can stick some pins in your eyes to make yourself feel better.
By now you will be desperate to go home, but you simply dare not bail out of the meetup after fifteen minutes. After a couple of hours you feel that it’s okay to make excuses and get the hell out of there – you never want to see another holiday photo. You get home, tear off your fancy clothes, watch TV and try to forget about the whole sorry episode. But hope springs eternal, and a few days later you may repeat the whole exercise, because your own company is infinitely worse than that of the most boring, pompous, drivel-spluttering nitwits.