To party or not to party

I’ll be turning fifty in a couple weeks, and I haven’t yet decided whether to have a party.

As I noted to Karen this morning: On the one hand, parties are great! On the other hand, parties are terrible!

I like the idea of parties. Gathering together people I like, and hanging out with them! What’s not to like?

But in practice, I find parties kind of exhausting. Hosting them is exhausting because of all the preparation required, and the darting around during the party to make sure everything’s going smoothly and to fix stuff that breaks and to put out more crackers and make sure the guests aren’t feeling neglected and so on. Attending them is exhausting because I’m an introvert with at least a little social anxiety, so interacting with people costs me energy and causes me a certain amount of stress.

Also, I like the idea of having a nighttime party like I used to do back in the old days, but (a) my very quiet neighborhood probably wouldn’t look kindly on the late-into-the-night noise levels involved, and (b) a nighttime party would make it harder for people to bring kids, which makes friends who have kids less likely to attend (and anyway, I like my friends’ kids and would like to get to see them too).

Also, and this is the really big issue for this particular party, I’m turning fifty. Which seems implausible to me; I don’t feel fifty. But in fact I am. And I don’t want to admit it to myself, and having a party to celebrate seems like an acknowledgment of it that might make it real or something. And I don’t want to make a big fuss out of it being a Big Round Number, but I haven’t had a birthday party in years so it seems like having one for this birthday would be making even more of a fuss about it.

My plan in early 2017 was to have a 49th-birthday party last year, which would then have taken some of the pressure off this year. But I didn’t get around to it.

There are, of course, various things I could do instead of a party. Go on an Adventure! (But I don’t like Adventures.) Go out drinking! (But I don’t drink.) Do a service day, inviting friends to join me in volunteering for something! (But that sounds likely to be even more exhausting and stressful for me than having a party.) Visit the Tactile Dome, or go Indoor Skydiving! (Would love to do both of those again sometime—it’s been years—but both of them are much more suitable to small groups than to the large number of people I would invite to a party.) Go to a movie! Go out to dinner at a place I like! Stay home in bed with someone! (All fine plans, and all traditional Jed’s-birthday activities, but none of them address the gather-lots-of-friends-together impulse that’s driving the desire for a party.) Do taxes! (Not celebratory enough.)

(Btw, in case anyone was considering it, please don’t have a surprise party for me.)

I know that the turning-fifty issue is silly. I have plenty of friends who are over fifty. I felt similarly when I turned forty, and that turned out not to be a big deal, and that was ten years ago. So I’m sure all will be well.

When I started writing this entry, I was thinking that I would conclude it by saying that I recently labeled photos from a great biggish-group-Thanksgiving dinner in 2011, which made me nostalgic for seeing friends whom I don’t see often enough, and thus that I probably will have an afternoon party after all. But while I was writing this, it occurred to me that I could do my usual low-key birthday-week celebration, and then have a party that isn’t a birthday party in a couple months. That might be the right approach. Will contemplate further.

2 Responses to “To party or not to party”

  1. KTO

    I find it’s useful at parties for the celebrated individual to not be the host, whether for catering purposes or guest caretaking. (I note that whole people we both know do take on those roles while hosting, I’ve also been asked by those people to act as ad hoc catering assistance and guest caretaking.)

    Some of your friends are extroverts and people feeders who’d be happy to take that on as part of their birthday gifting to you. Just a thought.

  2. Vardibidian

    Don’t take this as a suggestion, because it isn’t one, just a rumination—a friend recently had a similar round-number party, and had it at a restaurant/destination sort of place. I would never have thought of doing that, not just because of the expense, but also because it’s the sort of thing people do for a wedding or a bar-mitzvah, not just for a party.

    But of course that’s not an actual rule at all. Nor are all of those places ‘posh’, nor would it have to be a formal sit-down Dinner Party. All (or most) of that sort of thing can be arranged, or a place can be found that is willing to arrange it, so that it is their job to put out more crackers and take away the empties and worry about the neighbors. The birthday-person could sit around with friends and play games or chat or sing karaoke or whatever, and various other people will earn money they presumably would like to have.

    Again, I’m not suggesting that would solve your problems, just that it had legitimately never occurred to me that a birthday party of that kind might be the kind of thing where you could exchange money for worries in that way.



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