Dear Virginia. I feel very low because all my friends were asked to New Year's Eve parties except me. I could have gone to a bar with some people, but they're not really my type and I didn't want to get completely drunk. The result was I stayed at home alone feeling sorry for myself. It was the same at Christmas. Everyone said they had a great time, but although I had an OK time with my family, it wasn't very exciting. Why is it with me that the party always seems to be in the next room? Best wishes, Angie
Virginia says... Do you imagine, when anyone answers the question "How was your Christmas?" they ever say anything except: "It was great!" Of course some scrupulously honest people may describe their Christmases or birthdays or New Years' Eves in more painful detail, but the exchange of the phrases "How was Christmas?" and the answer "Great!" is much the same as "How are you?" and the answer "Fine!"
When you ask someone, "How are you?" you really don't expect them to give you a medical run-down about the state of their arthritis, asthma, infertility and the precariousness of their marriage. No. You expect them to say, "Fine. How are you?" When you ask, "Did you have a good holiday?" you expect the answer "Fantastic!" rather than a moan about how it was blighted by rain.
Next, you say "all my friends were invited to parties" – but do you realise that that phrase "all my friends" is something that would make many people reading this column feel extremely jealous? Many people have no friends at all. At least you have friends. And not only that, at least you were asked out to something on New Year's Eve. You could easily have gone out and not got drunk. You could have left early, saying you had a headache. Indeed, before everyone got drunk, perhaps you could have had rather a good time.
And anyway, many's the time I haven't had anything to do on New Year's Eve, not even an invitation to a bar with drunken friends, and I've spent it feeling pretty glum. It happens to all of us now and again, and the moment we become mature enough to realise that not only do lots of people spend Christmas, New Year and birthdays all on their own, but that when people claim they've had a great time they're lying their heads off, the happier we become.
I think you're taking a rather passive stance in all this. You wait for invitations rather than issuing them. Why not, next year, ask people over to your place instead? And make sure you ask not just "all your friends" but all the lonely people who've got nowhere to go. Be the one who makes good times, not takes them. As for Christmas with your family, next year just go round with games and party tricks and try to make it fun. Someone's got to, and if no one else is going to take the responsibility, then why not you?
Stay true to yourself, even if it means staying in
You have presumably got a deserved reputation for "unsociability", but have to accept this is the consequence of avoiding certain kinds of social contact.
In my opinion you must be true to yourself, and regardless of a guilty conscience, be completely honest, trusting that your true friends will understand.
Ned By email
Accept that not many people have great new years
This reminds me of a workmate I once knew when in my twenties.
Most Mondays, she would come into work and complain of the boring party she had been to that weekend. Then a friend would ring up, and guess what? That "boring" party would suddenly be transformed into a great night out!
So, I'd advise Angie to take heart, and appreciate that an "average" Christmas is exactly what most people end up having.
Rob Score By email
Next week's dilemma
Dear Virginia, I know my own grandmother preferred my older sibling more than me, and it always hurt. I now have two lovely grandchildren of my own, and my love for the younger is far greater than the love for the elder. I can't help it. Recently I said, with mocking self-pity, to the older one, who's four: "Oh, nobody loves me!" and she said: "Well, Nadia [her younger sister] does!" Poor little soul. I try so hard not to let it show. Do you think it will damage the older one as I feel my own grandmother's preference damaged me? Yours sincerely, Trish
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