10 Things I Say Vs. What I Actually Mean as an Introvert at a Party

An introvert at a party

What I ask: “Where’s your bathroom?” What I mean: “I’ve only been here for 20 minutes but I already need somewhere quiet to dissociate.”

I’m an introvert, but I also consider myself to be a social person. I love spending time with friends one-on-one or in small groups. Occasionally I get invited to parties or work events with a large population of loud, extroverted strangers – which presents a conundrum. 

There’s an adage about wanting to be invited to a party, but not necessarily wanting to go, that might as well be tattooed on my highly sensitive, introverted heart. If I don’t go to the party, will I still be invited to future parties that I don’t want to go to? 

From there, I find myself worrying (i.e., overthinking), if I don’t go to the party, will I disappoint my friends? What if I want to be social, but the only current social opportunity I have is antithetical to my ideal environment?

I usually find myself going to these events against my better judgment and saying these 10 phrases, which have secret, introverts-only, tongue-in-cheek, hidden meanings. Perhaps you’ll recognize some yourself.

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10 Things I Say Vs. What I Mean as an Introvert at Parties

1. “Wow, you sure know a lot of fun people!”

Actual meaning: “Jeez, party host, how did you manage to find this many humans and get them to gather in one place?”

It’s impressive to me how an extroverted friend will be able to collect upwards of 20 acquaintances in their home without having a complete sensory overload-triggered meltdown. I should really start bringing a decibel reader to big get-togethers, just for my own validation. 

2. “Toss me a Cherry White Claw!”

Actual meaning: “Even though I don’t plan on drinking much tonight, I need something to do with my hands while I’m standing around awkwardly, even if that means I have to choke down lukewarm seltzer water.”

I find props to be helpful when trying to pass myself off as “not miserable” at social events. A beverage gives me something to do. It also acts as an emergency conversation-starter, i.e., “Do you like White Claw?” 

I also typically have my phone available in my pocket so I can pull it out quick-draw-style and fake an urgent text message in the event I see someone heading in my direction.

3. “Mm-hmm, that’s interesting.”

Actual meaning: “Hey, random guy who has cornered me to relay the entire history of some football player’s career, I am not absorbing a single thing you are saying. Instead, I am plotting my escape from your presence (and perhaps this party).”

There’s nothing worse than falling into the trap of an inebriated party guest who is an expert on a subject I couldn’t care less about. When I run into this situation, I feel like I’m running a delicate extraction operation, determining the necessary logistics to strategically remove myself from the conversation. 

4. “Hey, where’s your bathroom?”

Actual meaning: “I’ve only been here for 20 minutes, but I need somewhere quiet where I can dissociate and scroll Instagram until the ibuprofen I took for my tension headache starts to kick in.”

Ah, the bathroom. There might as well be a glowing halo of light around the toilet, that glorious last bastion of solitude at a place like this. I just hope there’s a lock on the door and that I’m not in there so long that people start to question my gastrointestinal health. 

5. “Don’t you have a cat?”

Actual meaning: “Please, dear Lord, give me an excuse to sit in the corner for a little bit.”

I have a reputation as someone who makes a bee-line straight for the pets as soon as I get into someone’s house. I’m definitely a bleeding heart animal lover, but I also adore how those furry little creatures give me the perfect reason to be alone in a corner. Plus, I can pass it off as doing the host a favor because I’m entertaining their pet! Win-win. (Even better if they have a dog who needs a walk!)

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6. “Let me choose the next playlist.”

Actual meaning: “If this dude puts on “This Is Skrillex” on Spotify at max volume again, I’m going to start clawing at the walls like the slowly-going-insane heroine in a Gothic horror story.”

Loud music is a lot for my sensory-processing-struggle-bus brain to deal with, especially if it’s music that sets my teeth on edge. Remember: Introverted doesn’t always mean shy, so I’m okay leaving the cat and taking charge of that Bluetooth speaker. Surely, the other guests can make it through at least a few songs on my go-to “Soothing Indie Vibes” playlist before someone mimics vomiting and then plays “Party Up” by DMX. 

7. “Looks like you’re running low on ice.”

Actual meaning: “Here is an opportunity for me to get in my car and leave this hellscape for a half hour under the guise of helping you, the host, maintain an excellent party atmosphere.”

Is there enough ice to last the rest of the evening? Probably. But my motto is, why take that chance? Or rather, that’s what I say my motto is when I grab the host’s arm and make an impassioned plea to let me run down to the local grocery store to protect the coldness of everyone’s drinks. She doesn’t need to know how much I’m going to enjoy that excursion. (And if it is timed perfectly, I might miss out on Scattergories.) 

8. “You know, I’ve got an early start tomorrow.”

Actual meaning: “I am laying the groundwork for a graceful exit in approximately 45 minutes. Please do not ask me any specific questions about why I need to get an early start because it is a complete lie.”

When I can feel my tolerance for people flagging, as I get more and more drained, I start planting the seeds of my imminent departure in the minds of the host and any guests I’ve chatted with who I actually like. (Whether or not I have an early morning commitment or will actually be sleeping in until 10 a.m. is irrelevant.) 

9. “Excuse me, I drank a ton of White Claw and need to pop to the bathroom again.”

Actual meaning: “My bandwidth is at critically low levels, and if I don’t retreat to the solitude of the bathroom to collect myself, I am going to burst into tears right here in the middle of Scattergories.”

Before making my exit, it’s good to take one last trip to the bathroom for a few deep breaths and decompression. (Even Oprah and Amy Schumer, both introverts, find the bathroom to be a great refuge at a party!) I’ll need this last recharge to get through the rest of the “fun” group game (if I made it back in time from getting ice, that is!) and then through saying all of my goodbyes (unless I just slip out unnoticed). 

10. “I had a great time!”

Actual meaning: “In retrospect, I should have stayed home, made a pot of peppermint tea, and curled up on the couch with a Liane Moriarty novel and my favorite blanket.”

I always congratulate myself for making it through the evening with no meltdowns and no friendships changed. After a big group gathering, my social needs are overly satisfied and I try to book it home as quickly as possible so I can get some quiet relaxation time before bed. 

Sometimes, I’m glad I got out and socialized, even if I’m drained afterwards and have the worst introvert hangover. Other times, though, I wish I’d had the courage to be honest and declined the invite. (There is an art to saying no, especially for us introverts.)

So, the question remains: The next time an invite rolls around, will I remember any of this? Or will I fall back on another phrase with a less-than-truthful meaning: “I’d love to come!”?

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