There are sociable and unsociable streaks running through my personality like veins through marble. On one level, though, I appreciate the necessity of socializing that comes with the festive period. I’ve lost track of too many friends in my life on account of my introverted moods, to permit them to always take precedence over extroverted ones.
In that spirit, this week I’ve attended at least three gatherings of varying levels of formality, and at none of them did I feel completely at home. On Wednesday it was a meeting of our local environmental group, including complete strangers to all of us. My friend and organizer is convinced it went well, which it probably did: personally, I got about half an hour in and then defaulted to my polite but slightly blank face, in order to be nice to what were basically the general public: this worked well until I failed to recognize someone’s son I’d met several times before.
Yesterday at lunchtime I rushed over to my old workplace to meet up with ex-colleagues over a rather hasty lunch: only a handful of them hadn’t already left for holidays, and then their lunch order at the sandwich shop failed to turn up, while I ate my Coop ploughman’s, feeling slightly guilty. Then in the evening K. and I went to a literal cheese-and-wine evening at a friend’s just up the hill. They had invited an entire other family (the standard matching set of father, mother, sister, brother) who we’d never met before, and while they were were nice enough, we had few points of shared interest or culture with them. So we drank, and stumbled through a conversation, and then staggered home to bed.
Such is the season of goodwill, where our flawed human epiphanies lead up to the festival of a real one; a succession of wonky but well-meaning events that don’t quite stick. And yet we do it, and we do it again, because sometimes nine tenths of the great social victory is simply turning up and flashing a bemused smile. Plus, it keeps us from going a bit weird by only having the cat for company.