I groaned inwardly when I saw the invitation detailing the coming evening's events:
7:00pm - 8:00pm Cocktails
8:00pm - 10:00pm Dinner and Presentations
I hadn't been particularly excited a few days before when I was asked to attend the black tie dinner for work. I wasn't dreading it exactly, but since it meant bringing a dress and all the necessary accessories to work, changing in the bathroom, and not getting home until close to midnight, I wasn't really looking forward to it either.
But when I saw the invitation on the morning of the event I wished desperately for a violent case of food poisoning. Or Swine Flu. Or a nice bout of Ebola. Anything that would be an excuse to skip it.
It wasn't the dinner portion of the evening that I found problematic. That was easy. Sit at a table, eat, periodically smile and clap politely, and leaf through the program during breaks in the presentations to avoid having to make conversation.
But I had been to enough events to know what the invitation meant by "Cocktails." A cavernous room. Hundreds of people standing in small groups. Lots of talking and laughing. The discrete exchange of business cards over small talk. Nary a table or chair in sight.
Or, for a lifelong introvert such as myself, an hour akin to one of Dante Alighieri's circles of Inferno.
The thought of trying to find enough people to talk to to keep myself from standing awkwardly alone was exhausting. The mere idea of an endless hour of small talk had me longing for a quiet night at home with sweat pants, my couch, and hours of TV.
But I gave my word.
So at the appointed hour, I touched up my makeup, put on the dress, and clasped the pearls that would transform me from "regular person" to "sophisticated lawyer who attends cocktail parties." And I walked the six blocks to the hotel where the event was being held like a death row inmate taking his final walk to the execution chamber.
The scene at the hotel was exactly as I thought it would be. I entered the room, following my colleagues through the crush of bodies and the vague scents of perfume, light sweat and expensive alcohol. The potpourri of parties. As they each found someone to talk to I found myself, as predicted, standing alone amid the chattering groups, anxiety rising.
As a fiercely proud introvert for whom Susan Cain's words are gospel, I knew this was unacceptable. I needed a change of scenery. Immediately.
I asked a nearby waiter for the closest ladies room. I followed his directions to the beautiful bathroom, locked myself into one of the generously sized stalls, sat right down on the toilet seat fully dressed, and sent a prayer of thanks to the God of introverts that I decided to bring my normal bag to the event instead of a smaller clutch.
Romance novels don't fit into clutches.
And the cocktail hour was lovely.