I go to a social event, a few hours after it's over I start to experience
Post-Party Regret. This is a syndrome that only happens to people
who worry about things they can no longer do anything about.
Before going to sleep, I slowly begin to
relive all the mistakes I made over the course of the evening.
I lie in bed and count them the way some people count sheep. There
are two main categories: Idiotic Things I Said and Idiotic Things
Once submerged in mortification, I try to
decipher which things I can let go of, which things I can let
go of after a few days of obsessing, and which I can turn around
to redeem myself. Then I decide who will get an e-mail, who will
get a phone call, and who I can allow to continue thinking I'm
But tonight there is a new category: Idiotic
Things I Did When Meeting The Boss. We've all been there, right?
I sat straight up in bed when I remembered, and had a shiver of
Here's what happened: I went to the opening
of an exhibition, and I treat every social situation like an obstacle
course: I'm thrilled if I get through it without tripping. I had
the usual social anxiety but the bar was serving real cranberry
juice - not the drink that tastes like cough syrup, so that helped.
I was doing well, but after a few conversations
I had to sit down. I enjoy sitting alone at parties because I
like to pick out those in the crowd that I am so thankful not
to be stuck talking to. I feel grateful after that.
So there I was, sitting and thinking, when
who walks by but the man who runs this newspaper. He stops when
he sees me, alone on my bench, and says hello. For some reason,
I stay seated. You'd think I was 100 years old and couldn't get
up without assistance.
Now I have to make a decision: is it inappropriate
to discuss work? Maybe after a 14-hour workday, he'd prefer not
to. His foot was in a cast - do I ask about his tennis injury?
It's a chance to make an impression, to say something charming
or funny or perceptive.
I knew I only had one shot. "So,"
I said, "have you ever heard of Wegener's disease?"
He looked confused. "You've never heard
of it?" I said joyfully. This next part is a little hazy.
I remember going into detail about this rare autoimmune disease
and, as his eyes began to glaze over, a voice in my head said:
"Stop talking. Now!"
But I was in so deep I had to save it. I
had to make it sound interesting. Quickly I tried to make a connection
- were there any presidents, prime ministers or movie stars who
had Wegener's? But it's so rare, it hasn't even got a celebrity
who has it.
I wish I could go back in time.
Maybe if I'd inquired about his injury I
might have discovered I had the same one. I play tennis - why
didn't I talk about that? I love Billie Jean King and a few weeks
ago I watched Andre Agassi play his last US Open and sat weeping
in front of the TV when he lost. It was so depressing. Why didn't
I bring that up? We could have become buddies. Bonded for life.
We could be talking about tennis right now. But no, I had to spend
my five minutes with the boss talking about a disease. And people
wonder why I don't go out.