Christmas is barely 4 weeks away. This means a flurry of invitations to attend all sorts of Christmas functions, from the corporate to the personal.
I dread the corporate events. Some years back I dutifully attended the work bash and by the time I got home I was in tears from the strain of it all and spent the next day in bed recovering. The following year I made sure I had a prior commitment.
This year, we have our building-wide corporate function, our workgroup corporate function, and possibly, if any of us get our act together, a team function. (We didn’t manage to get this organised last year and ended up having our team Christmas party in about April. Which was fine, and it was a very nice evening.)
The whole-of-building event is bearable because it’s held in the building, is obviously corporate in nature, and is clearly designed to be done and dusted in a short time. Also, there’s little to no expectation that one enjoy it.
The workgroup event is the one I dread. This is the event that did me in some years back.
The trouble with the workgroup event is that it’s an uncomfortable confusion of boundaries. Most of these people I am happy enough to work with but I don’t want to be friends beyond the confines of the building. Frog marching me out of the building to some “fun” location to spend half a day (unpaid) pretending to be enjoying myself while avoiding talking to my colleagues about anything personal because I don’t want to break down that professional barrier, feels like bullying to me.
There is a fairly clear but unspoken rule that failing to participate is failing to be a team player, a mortal sin in current corporate thinking. So I feel under tremendous pressure to conform and subject myself to a few hours of what is for me abject misery and suffering. I really resent it. The purpose of the gathering is, I assume, to enjoy ourselves. But I don’t find enjoyment in those circumstances. I am forced to fall in with others’ view of what constitutes fun and enjoyment.
In the interests of protecting my health, both mental and physical, I will again excuse myself.
There is always peer pressure to participate, and it’s naive to think that being upfront and saying I’m not going is going to be accepted without comment. Perhaps men can get away with that. Women can’t. I will be reassured that it’ll be fine (implying that social anxiety is behind my resistance), I’ll enjoy it once I’m there etc. I will then have to insistently refuse, at which point sympathy will turn to hostility (how could you be so rude, why are you rejecting us, what did we ever do to you).
It is very wearying to be subjected to this kind of emotional pressure. It can seem easier to give in and go with the crowd. But I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year to honour my true self’s nature and prioritise my health. Agreeing to go violates both. A day in bed sick recovering from 3 hours of “fun” is too high a price to pay.