I have a lot of fears. Most are rational – failure, nuclear war, going to the doctor – but there’s one fear I have that I’ve never been able to justify. I’m afraid of being invited to fake parties. Specifically, I’m afraid of being invited to a party and then showing up and nothing’s happening and it’s like, “Haha, you thought.”
It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly this fear started. In my youth, I was never really invited to many parties. It wasn’t like it is now where everybody obviously loves me and thinks I’m great and wants me to be at things. No, no. I was a genuine Loser.
I don’t have a specific memory of the first time I experienced it. Probably in middle school? It was, after all, middle school. But again, here’s the thing – I was actually invited to a few parties in seventh grade. I was brand new at a school in an area I’d just moved to, and immediately fell in with a group of girls who constantly had sleepovers. Every time I was invited to one, it was always real. Eventually they decided to outcast me, as they did with every girl in the group at one point or another, but they didn’t do any mean pranks or anything. Just stopped talking to me. This might explain my low self-esteem or my reluctance to trust people, but it doesn’t explain my very specific fear of fake parties. So. Moving on.
After that group, I became friends with a different group of girls. They were and are terrific and are my best friends to this very day. They never invited me to fake parties. Sure, they were much more social than I was and got invited to many things I didn’t, but that was never a thing between us. Everything was great; nothing to worry about. And yet…..
I remember there was a point, sometime around high school, where my fear expanded a tiny bit to a general fear of showing up to fake events. I would come to school on field trip days and suddenly worry I’d made the field trip up and I was the only one who didn’t bring my books/notebooks that day and everybody would laugh, which on its own is hilarious, because nobody at my high school gave a fuck what you were doing in class. I would go to people’s houses for the first time and worry they’d given me the wrong address. I had nightmares about thinking an exam was one day when actually it was the day before and I’d missed it already. Just a constant, anxious, nagging feeling that I was destined to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, likely by malicious design.
I still have this fear a little bit today. That’s why I have precautions in place. For example, I never go to an event if I don’t have someone to go with. I’ll lock down an attendance buddy and not leave my room until they text me like “Where are you?” Does that make me kind of an asshole? Yes. But it’s better to be an asshole than to be humiliated. If my attendance buddy insists on “meeting there,” I’ll scope out the nearest bathroom before I go. That way, if I show up and nothing’s happening, I can just continue walking to the bathroom and pretend that’s what I was looking for all along. If there actually is something happening, I continue to the bathroom anyway, because that brings me to my final point – once I’m at a party, I make sure to never be alone in a room, not even to pee. I’m not allowed to pee at parties. You never know when everybody will decide it’s time to pull a disappearing act on you.
Over the years, I’ve gotten better at managing this fear, but if you ever invite me somewhere and I don’t show up, now you know why. I’m onto you.
Image via Annie Warner.