Hubby has been working for his present company since last September. Since he began working there, the company has had a few different events to which the spouses/partners of employees were invited. There is another such event this coming weekend, as Hubby reminded me this morning.
Now, I'm a very social person. I don't get stressed out by being in a large group or in a group of strangers. I'm outgoing and enjoy social situations. Usually. When it comes to Hubby's coworkers, though, I feel a bit more outside my comfort zone.
The first part of it is, I think, because I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past five years. That's five years in which I've honed my knock-knock jokes, unwittingly memorized the entire Wiggles canon, brushed up on all the Disney princesses and painstakingly learned the pros and cons of every playground in the county, but also five years in which I haven't regularly interacted in an adults-only setting. Combine that with issues like, while pre-Kiddo I used to see, on average, four movies a month in the theater, nowadays we're lucky to see four movies a year in the theater, and that nowadays I catch most of my news and current events either in brief snippets here and there while I'm getting ready for the day (we don't have the TV on while the kiddo is up, outside of her shows, which don't include CNN or Headline News or even the Today show) or via the 5:30am news, at which point I'm not entirely awake - what I'm trying to say is that I've sort of lost my grip on the larger world. Mostly, I'm okay with that. I do read the top stories on CNN.com and try to keep up on pop culture via my beloved Entertainment Weekly, but I've been all right with having my world shrink dramatically to a point where the primary concern and focus is my immediate, little family. All right, that is, until I am in an adults-only social setting, where all of a sudden I feel a wee bit out of my element (unless the talk pertains to anything child-related, of course). Not even so much "out of my element" as just rusty with What Grown-Ups Talk About When Socializing Sans Children. That's what it is - rustiness. My Socializing Grown-Up mode is covered under a thick layer of dust, and that's kind of hard to shake, since that is no longer who I am - I'm not the same me I was before kids, you know? When I'm with a group of my peers, it isn't hard at all - I can chat with fellow parents (generally in a parenting-relative situation, like at preschool or a birthday party, playground or pediatrician's waiting room) and I'm utterly comfortable - there's no dust on Mommy Me. Just on Non-Mommy Me, that's the part that's rusty. So, part of it is that I want to make a good impression and be a supportive spouse, and I feel kind of awkward from having been out of the loop for so long now in that regard, unlike Hubby, who is out and about in the Regular World, talking to other adults every day.
That is part of the stress I feel facing a social event with Hubby's coworkers. More specifically, however, I'm a bit stressed because of the Peppercorn Incident. (cue horror movie music here please) It happened back on my birthday this past December. My birthday, which happened to be the same date as Hubby's company's holiday party. It was a swank affair, held at a gorgeously decorated country club (ironically, a country club where I once job coached an individual for my pre-Mommy life working in supported employment - I know where each of the tables, chairs and tablecloths we were sitting around is stored down in the bowels of the building...). There was great food, an open bar, music. Hubby and I were dressed up and looking good, heck, I even had make-up and earrings and heels on that night, woo! The party was crowded, and we made it through the cocktail hour without problem, but then I was almost done in by the Peppercorn of Death during dinner. They were carving beef tenderloin for one of the entrees, and if I'm given the choice, I'm gonna go beef just about every time, especially given that we rarely have beef in any variety other than "ground" at home. I was given what turned out to be the very end of one of the tenderloins, and we sat down and started to eat, just the two of us at a table for four. (There wasn't assigned seating and we couldn't find seats at any of the larger tables of eight. This turned out to be not such a bad thing, in light of what happened next...) So, I'm enjoying the delish tenderloin and then I bit into my very last bite, which is the very end of the very end piece, and I bit down on something crunchy. My first thought was it was a bit of gristle or something, but it turned out to be a peppercorn (from the peppercorn-encrusted tenderloin, dontcha know) but not just a little flake of peppercorn, oh no. It was a whole peppercorn sent straight from Satan to torment unsuspecting birthday girls. I bit into it and my mouth was immediately on fire, so what did I do? Not the inelegant thing of spitting it out, no, not this classy broad. Instead, I tried to swallow it as quickly as possible, whereupon it cackled evilly a la Vincent Price in Thriller and attached itself firmly to the back of my throat, behind my uvula. It had sharp, piercing spikes with which it embedded itself, and it had no intentions of going any further. It wasn't obstructing my airway or anything, so I could breathe - sort of - it was just stuck there, sending tendrils of fire up into my sinuses and down my throat. (I should point out here that I never, ever eat anything spicy. Hubby has taste-tested for me for the past 16 years, and if he isn't available, I err on the side of caution and don't eat it. Seriously - to give you an example, Taco Bell's mild sauce is waaay too hot for me. My stomach just can't take spicy food, so I avoid it like the plague. An ordinary, spicy-foods-eating person probably wouldn't have found this peppercorn particularly strong, but for me, it was like a habanero chili pepper.) Water didn't do anything to dislodge it, and I didn't feel like I could really swallow (Hubby was suggesting trying to wash it down with some of my mashed potatoes), so I excused myself to the ladies' room to try and cough it up.
I am telling you, all of Hubby's coworkers must now think I am the world's least successful bulimic, because it took three separate trips to the bathroom, where I sequestered myself in a stall trying to hack that Peppercorn of Death up, before I finally did. Tres elegant, non? Once I'd finally, finally dislodged the damn thing, I was fine and hurried back to rejoin Hubby as quickly as I could. Adding insult to injury, I failed to check myself closely enough in the mirror post-coughing-and-hacking in my haste to get back out to where I'd left Hubby languishing alone at our table, and didn't realize that all my eye-watering, coughing, sweating shenanigans in the ladies' room had left me a bit of a mess. In an attempt to make up for the time lost where Hubby was left spouseless and alone, I went into super-social mode for the remainder of the evening, never realizing that my mascara had run into raccoon-like smears under my eyes, my lipstick was mostly gone, and I was sweaty and red-faced to boot. I can only guess that the folks we chatted with from that point on must've thought I was seriously drunk, which is all the more unfortunate as I rarely drink alcohol at all and was as sober as could be. (I've only ever been drunk to the point of being tipsy, and that was back in my not-very-wild-n-crazy college days. I'm so not a par-tay! kind of girl.) I was, to put it plainly, a hot mess, a fact I did not realize until we arrived home at the oh-so-not-partying-heartily hour of 11:00pm. (Which, sadly, is now late enough of an evening for us that we both needed naps the next day. Back in college, we wouldn't be heading out for the evening until close to 11:00, nowadays we are usually sound asleep by 10...)
So, I have a bit of stress now that I am going to be seeing these same people again on Saturday, plus the fact that the event is being held at our local amusement park, which has a water park and it is supposed to be in the 90s, so the kiddo will want to go in the water park. You see where I'm going with this? Yep, a public bathing suit situation, with people I'd otherwise be trying to impress - eeeeek!
All in all, though, I'm not going to worry too much and just enjoy myself on Saturday. I mean, I can't undo what happened with the Peppercorn of Death at the holiday party, and I doubt many (any?) of the other party goers have given it or me much thought since then. Hopefully I will be able to be adequately witty and charming and avoid something like choking on a hot dog or barfing from motion sickness on the Spinning Teacups or having a Boobs-a-Blazin' incident with my bathing suit on a water slide............ To quote one of my sister's favorite expressions, it is what it is and I can only try to be fantabulous from here on out. Right?