I find myself at yet another holiday party, even though I’d rather be sitting undisturbed at home than out mingling with the brandies and candies of the world. Why do I keep getting dragged to these awful potlucks as a reluctant plus one? I’ve been dragged to party after party, the cheap guest I came with never failing to collect me at the end of the night so I can be brought along to the next potluck. With every event, I grow more tired and feel my shell hardening.
We arrive fashionably late. I’m set down on a corner of an overcrowded table with my friend, Bailey. Awash in muted dark brown, which I had previously told myself looked understated and sophisticated, I immediately feel frumpy next to the sparkling sugar cookies, glittering in an array of vibrant iridescent colors.
At least I have Bailey, I tell myself, but this is not true for long. Bailey enjoys the kind of easy popularity I sometimes yearn for. Smooth and sweet, with a slim, elegant neck, curves in all the right places and a relaxed Irish charm, she’s a hit, quickly embraced by the group and gone before I know it.
I sit awkwardly, wishing I at least had some rum in me. A large, unwelcoming circle of pigs in blankets has now formed too close to me and a pair of sweaty, red-faced men amble up, pawing at the wieners. “Want a piece of fruitcake?” one asks the other, with an eggsnog-infused snicker.
The other man grimaces. “No thanks, man.” he laughs. “I’m, uh, allergic to nuts,” he adds, now feigning politeness. He excuses himself and grabs an enormous piece of pecan pie. I tell myself he’s an asshole and I shouldn’t care what he thinks of me, but I still feel my raisins tighten with tension.
Why isn’t this easier for me? The peanut brittle, an aggressive, tooth breaking prick is getting approached more than me. As is the fudge, jejune, cloyingly sweet and known to make people feel exhausted and empty. Even the twin veggie platters, with their constant virtue signalling, are getting more love.
I know I have a reputation for being a bit of an acquired taste and having a crusty exterior, but I’m also mildly sweet, well raised, and incredibly stable — no other desert has a longer shelf life or is more likely to survive an apocalypse, goddammit.
But here in this crowd of fratty gingerbread men, peppy peppermint bark, and sexy panettone (a more exotic version of me), my insecurity mounts. Every time I’m dragged to one of these things, I secretly hope to be a hit, gobbled up eagerly by the crowd. Failing that, I wish I could be placed alone on top of the fridge, where I could coolly observe without being so conspicuous. Watching the shyer human partygoers take frequent bathroom breaks to get through the night, I feel currants of envy.
Just as, most embarrassingly, my beady green orbs are starting to glisten a little as I ponder my sad fate, something plops down beside me. I can hardly believe it. Surely this is a holiday miracle.
It’s oatmeal raisin cookies! We sit together, untouched, in companionable silence the rest of the night.
Later, at a New Years Eve party (the pinnacle of awkwardness, with much forced, fake cheer), I’ll remember these gentle kindred spirits as the notes of Auld Lang Syne swell around me. And I will be flooded with sweet relief that the holiday party season is finally over and I can now look forward to quietly loafing at home.