[Originally published December 17, 2010.]

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Dear Not-Officially-Required-To-Attend Office Holiday Party,

It’s that time of year again, when a voluntary committee of co-workers I barely know have arranged another holiday celebration free of any hint of tradition other than not-officially forcing me to attend.

Please don’t misunderstand; it’s not that I don’t like the holidays or my job. It’s that I like my job to end reasonably around 5 pm so that I can begin my hour-long commute on public transportation home so that I can get to the business of celebrating the holidays.

I thought we were making progress when the organization let us know a day ahead of time that we would be closing early for Thanksgiving. Usually I am left working in a darkened and HVAC-free office for hours after everyone has left since my bus home only runs for specific hours. But here we are again, and you would like me to travel even further across town, eat and drink weird things with people I don’t know, and not leave until 8 pm.

You’ve done an amazing job this year of being on Tuesday night, ensuring that not only are there no plausible scheduling conflicts I could fake but that I have to come into work the next day.

I also notice you start at 6 pm, basically forcing me to give the organization a free hour of work before embarking upon two hours of forced socialization.

I accept that the problem lies, in part, with me. I have somehow already gained the reputation as “The Girl Who Has Worked Here for Almost a Year and Still Doesn’t Seem to Know Anyone,” which I am highly skeptical that my forced attendance at your holiday party will correct. When I was told, with great concern by four separate co-workers, that my failure to memorize the names and faces of our 70 employees who I have no need to interact with as part of my job and are scattered among two floors of offices had caught the highly negative attention of our executive director, I tried to address the situation. I stayed up late baking pumpkin bread and cookies for Halloween and hand-delivered them office door to office door, “reintroducing” myself to everyone… and yet my reputation holds firm.

You know as well as I do that my large-group socializing skills are not going to make this situation any better. And while I appreciate the gesture you’ve made in encouraging me to bring a guest, we both know I’ll either end up clinging to them (and be seen as even more antisocial) or abandon them entirely (and possibly never see them again, for bringing them to an office holiday party).

So here we are, Not-Officially-Required-To-Attend Office Holiday Party. I am not sure how many times I can have the “it’s so strange that we never run into each other around the office” talk, but I guess we are both about to find out.

Sincerely,
Eleanor Aigean
Washington, DC