For an introvert with few friends, I certainly get invited to a lot of holiday parties.
Last year, with all of the horrible implications of COVID-19, I had one glimmer of hope for my social calendar: I could realistically decline social events.
I was being careful and avoiding crowds. I was around immunocompromised people; I owed it to them—to mitigate their risk. No vaccine was around to protect me from the coronavirus and there were varying levels of caution depending on which workplace I was in or which shop I was visiting.
This year is different and people are weary of being cautious. We all know someone who has been deeply affected by the pandemic, people who have lost friends and family. Some have lost them through the virus, others have lost them through disagreements about risk management. I’m not going to hide behind the coronavirus for my explanations this year. These are mostly the same reasons I haven’t gone to holiday parties for a while, but I’ve never really listed them out.
But now, after spending all summer explaining why I still wear a mask, I am here to explain why I am not attending any holiday events this year. I can just save everyone’s time with this blanket rejection of all external events so I can stay home, bake cookies, and mail winter cakes to my people.
1. It’s too far.
The definition of “too far” has changed since the pandemic. I have been designated driver for many a party, but mostly it’s not worth it. The bait to get me to attend used to be excellent food. Now, I don’t care if Gordon Ramsay is personally feeding me every bite from a cocktail fork. I’m just not motivated at that level anymore. If the party is not somewhere I can see from my front porch, I am not inclined to attend.
2. I’m not a fan of the holiday season.
When I was in college, I worked retail. I worked the return desk the day after Christmas. I worked Black Fridays in the 90s—when people were assholes before it was cool. Color-coded spreadsheets on clipboards were staples for the pre-dawn shoppers gripping mugs of coffee as they waited in line for the store to open. I read somewhere that Jesus only got three presents, so all this is unnecessary in my mind. Perhaps I am a bit damaged from processing entire pallets of the cassette playing teddy bear or the collectible dolls, but Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a whole mood.
3. I’m not your designated driver.
One year, I was asked to informally help mix drinks at a house party. Thank goodness most people know how to make their favorite drinks and the red plastic cups actually have lines to help along with measuring because I don’t drink. I have never “overserved” anyone despite the fact that I don’t actually know what I’m doing. If you need a designated driver, usually I’m your girl. But not this year. I’m not interested in seeing who is going to have the mistletoe belt buckle this year. There’s always one and usually, he’s tanked.
4. I’m mad about the garbage.
In the Before times, we used real cups, plates, and forks, and I had no problem helping tidy up after an event. Now everyone is using those clear plastic highball cups for everything. Covid has made such an impact on the environment with the usage of disposable products where it simply wasn’t done before on such a wide scale. It’s allegedly sanitary and safer, but the last event I attended absolutely infuriated me as I watched multiple trash cans fill with half-eaten food in plastic cups that don’t even pretend to be recyclable.
5. I’m the last one standing.
I remember fun parties with family and friends, exes, and people who are far away now. I miss that; I miss the togetherness. I have fond memories of Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas mornings, and watching the New Year come in—sometimes on TV or sometimes from the roof of my apartment building in Brooklyn.
Everything changes. Some of these people are no longer with us. Others live far away but I think of them often. I remember a long-ago phone conversation with my grandmother as she told me about the funeral of another one of her close friends. She lamented that she was the last one standing among her friend group. I feel myself nearing that place where there are fewer people to visit and less in common with the people that I do.
At the end of the day, the pandemic has crystallized something I already knew—that my time is precious and I don’t have social obligations as much as I have an obligation to myself. I can sit with these memories and be grateful for them—while making sure that I mindfully spend the time I have left in life doing activities that have value with people that I care about. So I’m probably not coming to your party, but if you give me enough notice, I can send a cake.