No, I didn’t mean to say life of the party. I no longer need to be the life of the party. I’m satisfied with life at the party. I recently attended my wife’s work Christmas party. As a sex-starved, hypersexual bipolar, this is always a bit of a challenge to me. My wife works at an elementary school and everyone of her coworkers is a woman and most of them quite cute. Teachers are surprisingly wild at parties. They have a lot of steam to blow off, and so they drink and get silly and, I think, very sexy.
At parties, especially manic, I tend to become very social especially with women. I zero in on certain types. Single women who are attracted to older men. Now, understand, I’m not old. I’m 43, but to a 26-year-old, I’m an older man, and a little attention from a more mature man is welcome to some, and icky to others. I have a way of finding the former. Then there is the married woman who is neglected by their husband. I can be very charming when I’m “on”. I can give the kind of energy they are lacking in their lives. Finally, there’s the woman around ten or fifteen years older than me who wants to show she’s still got it. That’s practically a sure thing for a good flirtation or more. This demographic loves me. Everyone wants attention from a younger man or woman. My wife is generally too engaged with her coworkers to really notice. She is still a new teacher there and desperately wants to make friends.
This is my normal approach to parties, to create as much energy around myself as possible. If there is a piano, I play some songs. If there is an opportunity to sing, I show my skills. If I see a shot for anything to give me positive attention, I take it. But I no longer drink, I no longer cheat in any form, and I’m currently pretty level thanks to Saphris. And I no longer need to be the center of attention, and that’s the way I want it these days. Attention is a major trigger.
The first and perhaps most important thing I did to break this cycle is prepare. I came to the party with a plan. No one-on-one conversations with women. Number one! I will talk to hubbies and couples. Women love to be listened to and I have a knack for this. It’s simple. Ask, “So what’s new with you?” The question gets them out of the normal here’s what do for a living into thinking about new ground where the true possibilities lie. Then listen 80% of the time, and talk 20%. That goes for most anybody, but, and I don’t mean to be sexist, women especially need to feel listened to and they don’t always get that from their significant others. So I avoid that altogether. Next, I stick to my wife as much as possible. She knows how to subtly cue me when I get obnoxious or inappropriate. That is a sure way of staying out of trouble. That’s the plan.
I tend to get overwhelmed at parties when I’m not drinking, so I slip away to the bathroom once in awhile to get a little quiet. This allows me to reset my nervous system and evaluate my plan. It has a risk, though. If I make contact with someone in the hall, I might act impulsively, but so far that hasn’t happened at one of my wife’s parties. It’s happened elsewhere, though.
When I’m manic, I tend to get funny. This is a common thing among manics. My brain shoots fast and I see the jokes quickly and intuitively. I get a lot of laughs, but often I take it too far. Then no one is laughing anymore, and so I bide my time. If a good quip comes to mind, I wait just a split second longer before I say anything. This really helps me regulate and keep things in bounds. This really only works if I’m level enough to control my impulses.
Perhaps it was a mercy that my wife conked out at 8 before things really hit a fever pitch. I could already see the potentially trouble women. There was the young woman with the slim figure and the slutty eye makeup. I’d seen her in action at the previous year’s party. She loves to show off her skinny posterior, and if possible, her thong undies. She might not pay me any attention, but I would be inclined to pay her some attention. Then there was the 50-something gifted and talented teacher who used to flirt with me when she taught my kids. I avoided her like the plague. Half of my affairs were with women exactly like her. Then there was the giggly, tipsy, chubby blond chick who was already drunk before the party started. Once, she placed her hand on my chest as she talked. Trouble.
Finally, I didn’t dress in my hottest clothes. My wife and I wore matching t-shirts which said “And why is the floor all wet, Todd?” “I don’t KNOW, Margot” which says I’m attached and no longer care about being attractive.
I’m ducking a future party which will be attended by people I used to get drunk and high with. It’s the night before my big Christmas program at church so I didn’t really want to stay out. I usually fly solo at that party. My routine for that party is to get drunk, get high, get flirty, and jam out some Christmas carols on the piano, putting me at the center of attention. BAD BAD BAD combo. Maybe next year.
Parties are not easy for people with mental illnesses. They can be over-stimulating and full of all kinds of potential pitfalls. A little preparation is the key for me. I have a game plan and an exit strategy. In this case, my wife was the one who needed to exit, but she would totally understand if I needed to leave early.