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Well, it’s here, that peculiar experiment in social Darwinism, the office Christmas party (OXP). Not only is there pressure to attend, there’s an unspoken obligation to ‘have a good time’ which, trust me, will be policed on the day by some extroverted fuc*nuckle who singles you out for extra bonhomie just because your resting-party-face is still too Grinchy. The self-appointed fun police, who always tend to be the loudest female employee of the company, who normally can’t be trusted to email the weekly meeting agenda to you on time but who, for inexplicable reasons, can master-plan the living shitout of an OXP. Why more of these bitches aren’t killed at social events I don’t know. But I’ll get to that in a minute; here are ten timely coping strategies to help us introverts get through the dreaded OXP.

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Firstly (because these are in order), just don’t go. If you can do this without a pang of guilt or remorse, then you have a conscience of pure londsdaleite, my stalwart lonely friend, and that I would like to see. That said, if your boss is going then this isn’t an option. Being known around the office as a lone wolf might sound sexy, but in reality they’re just as likely to be calling you the office leper, and I can’t see any double-plus benefits in that. So while I’m officially with you (ie. who cares what the epsilons think), if your boss also holds the view that everybody is expected to show up, then go to the party! Suck up the social discomfort for one day out of 365 and move on to the next option. Time to put on the party-face.

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Okay, you have to put in an appearance, but nobody said for how long, right? Walk in the front door, grab a flute of champagne, plaster a smile on your face and shake hands with anybody that steps into your path on the way to the fire exit. Detour if your get waylaid, but then make that beeline again. This is a useful test to determine how well you’ve played The Grey Man all year. If you make it to the fire exit without shaking a single hand or air-kissing a cheek, then you are one sorry friendless individual. I weep for you. On the other hand, if you have people grabbing you from all sides, then check in your Introvert’s Club membership card, false deceiver! We at the Club, by the way, never have OXP’s. Anyhow, make for that fire exit and relish the moment you punch through, because you are free!

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If that doesn’t work, remember the Law of Diminishing Returns as you move to the third option. Perhaps you’re stuck at one of those horrific OXP events involving formal presentations, speeches and all that year-ending balderdash. Just do what you’ve gotta do, then get out. You still have to ensure the boss notes your appearance, you still have to wear the party-face, you still have to navigate the room for the exit, but you may also have to present a ‘Employee of The year’ award or (dear jesus) a speech. Just do it. Yes, you can. No, seriously, you can. Just pretend you’re Shia LaBoeuf or something (minus the MDMA).

You’ve royally messed things up to come this far — maybe for some pansy-assed reason like “Oh, I don’t like lying” or some shit. You are at Option #4 now — hide. This is no longer a sprint, it is a dodge. You’re not running for the border, you’re hiding in the jungle. The highest priority is to assess all escape options, in case you get an opportunity at short notice to squirm out of the bathroom window. Hide in plain sight, that way nobody can corner you in the hallway behind the ficus benjamina. You’d hide diamonds in the ice-tray, so hide your body among other bodies. Attach yourself to the tail of some group like a haemorrhoid. Keep your wits about you, because you may need to outwit Rob from Finance, who’s waited all year for this excuse to grab your ass, and is stalking you across the room with the bedroom-eyes of a deranged serial-killer, albeit one with a stoop and comb-over. Endure the speechifying, backslap the boss, navigate the room, and when the moment presents itself, run for your life.

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If we are seriously considering Option #5 then you are either new to the special world us introverts occupy (in which case, get off my blog, kid, because there’s a fuc*load of profanity herein) or you are particularly inept. Fair warning, you are now at the point of no return. No escape. You have to ride the OXP party-bus until everybody else gets off too. Yes, you sorry sonovabitch, welcome to the world of normal people! To survive this chattering hell, fill a chilled cocktail glass with gin, wave it in the direction of Italy, and garnish with an olive. Find the most boring person in the room and be their friend for the night. If you are the most boring person in the room, wipe away your tears and attach yourself to the drunkest person in the room. They don’t care. They’ll talk to anyone now. Then when they pass out, excuse yourself to drag them out to a taxi, leave them in a dumpster and take the taxi home yourself.

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Seriously? Option #6 is for those lacking the basic introvert’s survival skill of quietly commandeering a seat in the shadows and capturing potentially useful blackmail footage on your iPhone. The boss getting in flagrante delicto with her PA, the Executive Officer photocopying her pudendum, that sort of thing: because this is where it gets wild. Men start to show people their willies. Women begin flashing their boobs. If you are still here, you have graduated from martinis to shots, and will be oscillating rapidly between anxiety attacks and bouts of giddy camaraderie. The only sure escape is unfortunately a gendered thing: men, by becoming the obnoxious drunk, will get kicked out of the venue to freedom. Women’s popularity, however, is directly proportional (at least to men) with their degree of intoxication. You might wake up under an unfamiliar roof next to Rob from Finance with that creeping sensation that you’re now engaged. Time to ghost, ladies.

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Eight?? Phew…. okay, this is a total disaster, so salvage what you can. Push through the pain of id dislocation and become someone else. Someone who dances on tables and knows almost all of the words to ‘Khe Sanh‘. Who doesn’t care what people think, and is just having a good time. A person who has the confidence, ladies, of foregoing the queue at the women’s toilets to join the lads at the urinal. For men, their homophobia is either revealed or rescinded, but also their hearts are opened and true secrets divulged. Things said at Option #8 can never be unsaid, so your only hope is that they aren’t remembered. Likewise, your party trick of inserting a pair of salad tongs into your anus, such a raucous hit on the night, is now trending on FaceTube and it’s only a matter of time before the boss, who left mid-Option #4, calls you into the office for one of those closed-door conversations.

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Option #9 should not even exist. Take a good look at yourself. You are a disgrace. How do you come back from this? Some people actually liked you at #8. What were you thinking? All that dancing and singing and snogging under the mistletoe. And why wouldn’t they, it barely rates at Option #3 for those gibbering imbeciles. What the extroverted horde don’t understand is the internal monologue we intros have to contend with. The self-assessment, doubt-casting, revisions and endless self-criticism. They don’t get it because they don’t do it. For extros, stream-of-consciousness is the gabbling inanity that spews out of their mouths every minute of the day. Stop and listen to these fuc*tards. You want to be like them? Get a grip on yourself! You’re at this goddamn OXP, ‘socialising’ drunk with people you wouldn’t piss on if they were aflame. Salvage some pride. Push a kitten off the balcony, at least. Compliment a fat chick on her pregnancy. Do SOMETHING. Then leave.

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Ten. Mother of god. If you didn’t leave the OXP, then the wheels have absolutely fallen off your pony, haven’t they. You are lost. You passed from the realm of normal self-respecting introverts beyond the garish lights of mouth-breathing extroverts into a twilight zone where anything happened. This might have changed you — you could be stupider now — but you can’t remember. Women are reaching for the morning-after pill.  Men, waking up with a gin-headache and dirty condom hanging out of their ass, realise there’s no pills for that. Your cat will look at you, like, ‘Who the fuc* are you?’ and all of your goldfish will stop swimming. Maybe there will be a series of text messages from Rob in Finance, crowing victory, or maybe there will be an anonymous social-media silence. You’ll scour the interwebs for evidence of what you did. Oh god! What did you do?  But then the President of the United States of America appears on the television, announcing that Christmas has been cancelled, and you realise it was all a terrible nightmare, that there was no OXP; until you realise that the POTUS is Donald Trump, and that you’re living the terrible nightmare, and that the OXP was real.