How to Navigate Your Job’s Holiday Party Without Completely Embarrassing Yourself

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I attended my office holiday party last week– at a bar, at 2pm, glad to leave work 3 hours early.  I work in a business casual environment, and– as I mentioned before– am not close friends with anyone in my office.  In fact, I’m 89% sure that they all think I am a complete freak in hippie jewelry and grandma pants.  That being said, I was not at all excited for this holiday party.  It brought back the junior high schooler in me– the gawky 12 year old who is afraid to go to the school dance because no one will ask her to sway back and forth to Monica’s “Angel of Mine” with them.  I was absolutely terrified of being a wallflower.  Fortunately, everything went well, but not without me gleaning a few bits of wisdom about work-related social functions in the process.  Here’s what I’ve learned from work parties past and present:

1) Get drunk:  Nothing unites a bunch of drones who are working for The Man more than a pitcher of beer or a few too many glasses of wine.  If you don’t usually socialize with your colleagues outside of the workplace, the best way to start is by numbing your nerves with a bit of that ol’ magic confidence juice.  Plus, the drinks are free and you’re poor– so guzzle away!

2) … But don’t get too drunk:  There are two types of people at work parties: people who drunkenly embarrass themselves, and people who laugh at the people who drunkenly embarrass themselves.  Your call, but I personally like to be the laugh-er, and not the laughed-at.  Case in point: one time a typically-quiet co-worker got so plastered that he began hitting on a significantly younger, straight boy.  When he realized that his young Ganymede didn’t play for the same team, he redirected his efforts toward hooking me up with the hot young thang.

Drunken Co-Worker: (Stumbling around) Carrie, isn’t he cute?
Me: (Awkward silence).
Drunken Co-Worker: Oh, please.  You want to go down like a clown on him.  Down like a clown!  DOWN LIKE A CLOWN!
Me: (Walking away to repeat the phrase, “down like a clown,”  to anyone who would listen).

Years later, anyone who was present that night still cracks jokes about the disgusting imagery that those four words conjure up.  Please don’t get too drunk and turn into a free show.

3) Learn more about your arch enemies: Enveloped by the false sense of comfort brought on by free food and drinks, people often open up and “get deep” at work functions.  Take this opportunity to learn more about that grinch who makes your work week a living Hell– discover why this person is the way they are, where his or her horribleness comes from.  I once learned that my arch nemesis was mean all day just because she was lonely every night.  She asked me for dating advice at our work party, complaining that she wanted a man who would notice her “fabulous shoes” that she “bought at Nordstrom.”  My guess is that her dream man resides in Chelsea.

4) Find humor in your co-workers’ ridiculous preconceived notions of you:  I did an A+ job of bonding with my biz cas colleagues, so one of them invited me to go clubbing with her!  “I’ve got the perfect place for you.  You like rockers, right?  I mean, you are a rocker.”  Like I mentioned earlier, my “look” consists of high-waisted grandma pants and a bob haircut– not exactly Rock of Ages chorus member getup (unless the “ages” that they are referring to are the over-65 set).  Perhaps “rocker” is now the blanket term for anyone who doesn’t shop at Club Monaco?

5) Most importantly, get yourself to a karaoke bar:  Scratch my first tip.  Nothing bonds a bunch of drones who are working for The Man together like bouncing up and down while belting out Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You.”  Once you’ve gotten to know your co-workers at your work party, extend the festivities to an after party at a karaoke bar.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.  I fell in love with my ex-co-worker Masaaki over a duet of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” in which we literally cleared the room thanks to his inebriated state and lack of spoken English skills (he just kept screaming the word, “VIRGIN!!” into the microphone over-and-over).  Although I have since changed jobs and coasts, our karaoke sesh ignited a long-lasting love affair, and Masaaki and I still remain tight to this day– he constantly texts me pics of Kim Catrall sipping martinis, followed by the letter “U” (I wish, Masaaki).

Work parties can be scary if you don’t know what you’re getting into.  Proceed with caution, and expect the thing to play out like one great social experiment (or, some sort of Ashton Kutcher-produced reality television show circa 2005).  Eat, drink, be merry, and make friends with your fellow drones… whatever you do, just don’t go down like a clown.

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Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she
lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food,
but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends
to have a flair for the dramatic.