Last weekend my partner Nancy and I hosted a 109th birthday party. Between the two of us this year we turned 109. Nancy’s dream, when she was a kid, was to be a Harlem Globetrotter or a professional diver. For the last few decades, she’s turned her focus to becoming a master roller skater.
A few times a year Nancy resurrects her dream. We’ll go skate outside along the lake or at the park. This year we rented out a roller rink and invited all of our friends to join us for an evening of skating.
The party was from 6–8 pm on a Sunday night. We made cupcakes, ordered pizzas, and packed a cooler full of seltzers. The folks at the rink would take care of the rest of it. I was excited about the party but, as always, I felt a slight pit of anxiety at the thought of being in a big social situation.
I’m better in small settings — just a few close friends where everyone can hear what the other people are saying and settle into a conversation at a natural pace. In large groups, I always clam up and worry that I’m taking too much of someone’s time or that I’m too dull or annoying.
And hosting is always the worst for me — so much responsibility to make sure everyone is happy. Plus, I’ve been so busy lately with my new job that I hadn’t really had time to prepare for this skating party. Besides making cupcakes I hadn’t really done anything. At the last minute, I borrowed some bellbottoms and a cool polyester shirt from my teenage daughter and put on some sparkly eye shadow.
We got to the rink at 5:45 pm — just enough time to lay out the food and put on our skates before the guests arrived at 6 pm. The DJ pumped the jams as Nancy and I warmed up and got our skating legs going. By the time the first guests arrived at 6:05 pm we were comfortable and in the groove.
Because we had to wear masks at the rink I couldn’t wear my glasses so, as people checked in at the front, I couldn’t tell who was arriving. I could only greet people as they joined us on the skating floor and got close enough for me to see them. I’d wave as I passed them or as they passed me. It was perfect — there was no awkward hello, how are you, thanks for coming. There was no standing around navigating how to deepen or end the conversation.
It was amazing. People skated off and back onto the floor throughout the night. Some people just hung out on the sidelines and watched the skaters. But I stayed on the skate floor for almost the entire time. I was safe there, free from uncomfortable chit-chat. It was the perfect escape for my host anxiety syndrome.