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Offcie Party
Xara Higgs
The Dread of Office Christmas Parties

I sit quietly on my own in the corner, I’m pretty sure that no one has even noticed my arrival. But why would they? The last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself. I’m not really a crowd dazzling kind of girl. In fact I’m probably the exact opposite, I’m definitely not one of those people who likes being the centre of attention.

God, I really can’t stand these office Christmas parties. They’re always the same, it’s like there’s just one big long party on repeat. At least the décor isn’t looking as grim as usual. Last year someone thought it would be a good idea to cover everything in silver tinsel; it felt like you were living inside a mirrored disco ball. The tree isn’t as good though.

Perhaps these parties wouldn’t seem as bad if it didn’t feel like you had to attend, but you have to go, even if your dead you have to go. There’s no escape not unless you want to be totally ostracised. Why does that sound so painful? Ostracised, sounds more like a disease or some form of surgery. Maybe it is painful, but to actually feel hurt by it you just have to have cared in the first place.

Maybe I should try and care, I know how to have fun. I’ve done it before. I could get up have a quick spin round the dance floor, talk to the girls from marketing, dazzle the boys with my astounding wit, then instigate a shot-drinking competition, win and proceed on with the bad karaoke, shag the boss, photocopy my arse and then hopefully as I’m stumbling home lamenting my clichéd existence I’ll choke on my own vomit. No, perhaps not.

There must be some other way to entertain myself. Granted the amusement quota would undoubtedly increase ten fold if I were to at least try and make the effort. Maybe even dress up a little, wear some lipstick or something. My dress is quite nice though, not slutty but not dull, it’s elegant.
Oh no I’ve just realised I’m the only person wearing all black, I hardly ever wear black, my hair is black. Wearing it makes me look like one of those angsty teen goths who looks like they’d rather chew off their own arm than wear anything tainted by a more subtle hue.

Oh well maybe it will add to my cool mystique. Who’s the raven-haired goddess in the corner people will ask? Ha, ha. Funny. It’s not that I’m boring; I’m just not that gregarious. Most social gatherings have never really had the ability to whip my mind into a fun-filled frenzy. I’ve always preferred to sit quietly and observe than participate.

Social occasions, such as this one for example, really aren’t my forte my favoured move is to position myself in a corner. Not just any corner it has to be close enough to feign interest in what’s going on but far enough away to avoid conservation. It’s not about hiding, you have to be visible but forgettable, in the crowd but on your own, an untouchable. It usually helps to look a bit upset or pissed off the last thing party-goers usually want to do is waste time cheering you up. Then I just sit and wait, for what I don’t know.

Usually George, from human resources will slither his way over, either because all the girls have boyfriends this year or they just aren’t drunk enough to find him attractive yet. Then he’ll just stand there, swaying in front of me, smelling like a bottle of Hugo Boss has just thrown up on him. And then he’ll try to woo me by recounting his myriad of assets but what he clearly fails to understand is that I earn over twice what he does so no matter how big his pool is mine is probably bigger, and I’m not even over compensating for the size of something else.

You can learn a lot from just watching people, it’s really very interesting; it’s all about taking in what’s not being said. George for example, he’s a nice enough guy but he’s striving to be someone else and that desperation is dripping all over him. Watch the way he wears too much wet look gel in his hair, the fact he wears shoes with a slight heel to make himself appear taller, his fake gold Rolex, the Alfa Romeo key-ring he has for his keys when everyone knows he drives a Toyota. You’re not fooling anyone George. It’s sad really but just look around you everyone is just playing their part in the great pretence.

Even Marge, our lumbering receptionist who everyone likes, she’s adorable even I like her, she’s always so happy, but she’s too happy no-one can seriously be that happy all the fucking time. And you know what she’s not. It’s perfectly clear to me that she hates being here, maybe even more than I do. She’s got three kids, one in Norfolk, two in prison, she’s fat and relatively unattractive and it is widely known that her husband is shagging someone else. She doesn’t want to be here, she doesn’t need to go to a party she’s got bigger things to worry about than who didn’t put their Secret Santa gift in the office Christmas sack this year. It was me by the way.

But she flits around air kissing, making chit chat and talking about mundane things, like John from down the road and his new Volvo, it’s blue, second hand only done 50 thousand. She doesn’t care, she’s just smiling along loudly to soften the sadness.

But then maybe she really is happy, maybe I’m the one with the problem maybe I’m the big pretender. Perhaps I should be more willing to accept people for who they want to be, but I’m not sure if I can. I act on my instincts, more like an animal, because that’s what we are after all just animals. Though I expect most dogs have more people skills than I do. But at least I don’t sniff people’s arses; I’m just a bit of a bitch.
© Xara Higgs December 2005

Xara is a Creative Writing Masters student at the University of Portsmouth

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