A medium-sized party is not small enough to lend itself to deep conversation, nor is it large enough to comfortably abstain from interaction while merely observing the crowd. At a medium sized party most people already know one another fairly well; there are fewer tagalongs who are socially unanchored than there might be at a larger party and the setting isn't intimate enough to make it easy for a new person to insert her/himself into a pre-existing conversation.
The wizards at Myers-Brigg Type Indicator recently reminded me that I'm both Introverted (I) and Intuitive (N) (I'm also a T and P). This means I am most gregarious in situations where I know the people well or where I know what to expect from the conversation. In other situations, I'm extremely shy.
So the medium sized party this afternoon? Where I (essentially) knew only the hosts and BMG? Where I perceive most guests were parents (where I am not)? Within five minutes of being there (and two minutes after anxiously slugging down a can of seltzer), I knew I needed to leave.
So I did.
Many people are shocked when they learn I'm introverted. "But you are so good with people!" they exclaim. I am what my friend Rita once referred to as a "socially adept introvert." A potentially uncomfortable social event where the immediate purpose is clear to me is a challenge I can rise to. Like the office cocktail party where I'm meeting new donors? Obviously no problem. And the networking event BMG asks me to attend to help him chat up a new client? Being an "INTP" means I'm a unique and original thinker; being charming and interesting can come quite naturally. And in these situations, where I overcome my natural inclination to be introverted? I nearly always have fun and meet people I hope to know for life.
But today's party, where there was no obvious role I needed to play or purpose to my being there? I couldn't do it. As I politely fled I felt guilty, felt like I had let BMG down, and that I was being rude to the hosts. But, I also remembered that when I turned 40 I vowed to take more control of my life, to stop doing things I didn't have to do that didn't make my heart go pitter pat, and to be unapologetic about it.
So I left.
It doesn't mean I don't love the hosts, or wouldn't enjoy the company of any of the people there. It just means that size party with that many people I didn't know was not an environment where I could be my best. And I prefer, when I have the choice, to choose environments where I can be as close to my best as possible.
So, if you want to spend time with me, consider inviting me to a dinner party with eight people, or a drink after work, or a Sunday afternoon coffee date. If you invite me to go on a pub crawl with 40 of your closest friends, don't be surprised if I say no. But I will say no with grace, and suggest an alternative activity for you and I to do together that speaks to my INTP self and to our friendship.