Musings + Essays

What’s Your Party Vibe?

By: Jen Shoop

Are you the life of the party, a wallflower, or something in between? Has COVID impacted your self-possession in social settings?

I find that my social vibe fluctuates — even now, in my 30s, when I feel at long last thoroughly comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I am surprised by an unanticipated shy bent in my personality and have to coax myself out of my own shell. Other times, I startle myself with easy chit-chat with strangers. Now that I think about it, these oscillations in social confidence seem to have more to do with my headspace, how on-top-of-it I feel in other realms of life, and even what I’m reading and watching (?) at a given time than they do with the specifics of the gathering. When I feel calm in my heart and head, I find it far easier to connect with other people. (Go figure!). The isolation borne of COVID and the chaos of moving has intensified some of these shifts, leaving me hungrier for social interaction, less practiced at it, and at the same time more prone to feeling scattered in my personal affairs and therefore less at-home in group settings. One of the first group events I attended after the first few waves of COVID (and before Delta was a thing), when NYC was just reopening in May of this year, was surprisingly strenuous for me, even though I was surrounded by several close friends. I found myself out of practice in making my voice heard amongst a group of eleven or twelve other women, and I was simultaneously distracted by the strange tug I felt at leaving my children with Mr. Magpie for the afternoon, and by the laundry list of move-related chores on my plate, and by the fact that I’d had to wait twenty minutes for a cab downtown and was therefore appallingly late. (And I am a punctual person! “If you’re on time, you’re late,” etc.). The entire scenario caught me unaware, and left me wondering about my own reticence. I see now that it had more to do with context than with the circumstances of the party.

Work-related affairs are entirely different realm, with different stakes. I do not miss the conference circuit. That said, by the end of my tenure in the non-profit world, I had coached myself to the point of reliability when networking. I had two tactics that helped a lot in this regard: first, I would enter a room and immediately make conversation with the first person I made eye contact with. Often, my introduction was nothing more interesting than: “Hi, I’m Jen. I don’t think we’ve met before” or “Hi, I’m Jen. I don’t know anyone at this reception so I thought I’d introduce myself.” I found it far easier and less awkward to push myself to make contact right away versus idling around the room waiting for a convenient opportunity to interject. (This was also a strategy I deployed in school, where — though I was highly studious and attentive — I was never a vocal class participant. I would require myself to contribute to the conversation as early as possible in each class session, even sometimes willing myself to get my voice out there within the first ten minutes of class, because I found it more comfortable to participate later on if I’d already “broken the ice.” Otherwise, it became easier and easier to retreat into silence.) My second tactic was simply to remind myself of a truism Mr. Magpie brought home from a networking session he took in graduate school, where the instructor said: “It is always easier to be approached.” This platitude achieved the effect of the old “imagine the audience in their underwear” tack in that it reminded me that we are all human and it is always more pleasant to be approached, no matter how self-possessed you are in a social setting. In turn, it gave me the legs to approach people out of the blue, aware that my overture was likely a welcome gift for another reception-goer straining to make his or her way through the evening.

Writing this out makes me realize that though I don’t feel compelled to apply any sort of formal methodology to prepare for social gathering, it might do me well to check in briefly with myself before heading out to a group dinner or big party, i.e., “Are you feeling scattered already? What’s happening in that heart of yours?” and then muster my social will accordingly.

How about you?

(BTW, these ramblings bear the hallmark of a through-and-through introvert!)


+In general, small at-home gatherings with friends are more my speed anyhow.

+I’m feeling a major late 90s slip dress vibe coming on and I love it. This slip dress feels like Gwyneth meets CBK meets Jennifer Love Hewitt and I’m here for it.

+Cute personalized overnight tote for a little lady.

+OMG — Sally Rooney’s new novel is set for release in September. You might remember I’m a huge fan!

+Just the chicest console table, at such a good price.

+These twisted candles bring me joy.

+A great fall cardigan. So many out there this season!

+Super love this neutral rug.

+Another Maje sweater I’m lusting after. SO many good ones on sale ATM.

+Another Sir-inspired beauty for under $100. (You can see the O.G. here.)

+Cute caftan. Would work with small bump!

+This jewelry case is MAJOR!!! So chic. The brand also makes gorgeous embroidered cases, too.

+My mom recently gave the hostesses of a shower these Jo Malone shower gels (clever play on words — shower gel for the shower hostesses!) and it was such a sweet gesture. Also, they smelled amazing!

+This mama sweatshirt would be the perfect gift for my sister.

+Ordering these tiny Nikes in the red, white, and blue for micro to wear to the soccer class I just signed him up for!

+Natives, on sale! Love the ones with the scribbles on the side.

+ICYMI: this $60 dress is SO good.

+Cute rattan frame for under $20. More great frames for special photos here.

+I’m in love with the details on this hot pink bikini.

+TBBC just launched some seriously cute new jammies: love these alphabet ones and trust me when I say these birthday ones will FLY. I actually just added the pima cotton dress in the birthday print to my cart even though mini’s birthday is not until March — this is the perfect outfit to send your little one into school in on her birthday, and they sell out in a flash! I spent an entire afternoon last year calling every boutique on the East Coast that carried TBBC in search of one of their birthday-print pima cotton dresses.

+This little floral suitcase is so adorable! Another childhood item you won’t mind leaving out. Doubles as decor!

+How fabulous are these flats?!

+These chic woven Roman shades are incredibly well-priced and would add interest to any room! Imagine tying in with a rattan side table like this.

+These floral canvas sneakers for a little lady are too precious — under $20.

+Are you kidding me with this daybed?!?!?! Unreal!

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13 thoughts on “What’s Your Party Vibe?

  1. I love this post, and what you said really resonates with me — I find my “party vibe” fluctuating a lot depending on my mood. I am an introvert in the sense that I NEED alone time to recharge, but I am also a Gemini (haha) and love socializing! I will definitely be taking some of these brilliant tips to heart.

    Also, I’m with you on being SO excited for Sally Rooney’s new novel. I’m flying on September 7th (eek) and am secretly hoping that the airport bookstore will have it in stock so I can read it on the plane!!


  2. Really enjoyed this post! I’m fairly introverted and my son is starting preschool this month at a school where I know nobody. I’m going to employee some of these tactics and who knows I may even make a friend 🙂 hopefully my son will see these interactions and it will help him with his own confidence.

    1. I love this! I know, being a parent really makes you think about how everything you do is modeling behavior for little ones. My husband and I always say to each other: “little rabbits have big ears” but not only big ears — big eyes, too! They absorb EVERYTHING!

      Good luck with the start of school!


    2. Liz, just wanted to say that similar to Jen’s point about conference attendees, I think most moms are also so happy to hear from other moms in the class! My daughter was new at her school last year, and one September weekend with no plans I sent a note to the class chain asking if anyone was looking for a playdate, and I got an immediate response from a grateful mom who then became a friend. I bet your confident outreach will also be quickly rewarded!

  3. I know what you mean about feeling out of practice. I went to my first big all-day event a couple months ago and had a POUNDING headache by the end. I have felt a renewed appreciation for good conversationalists, though. Ones who instantly make other people feel at ease and keep the conversation fluid and open. I once met an 80-something man at a party who was such an incredible conversationalist that I left the interaction feeling more charming and socially adept. A rare skill!

    1. That is a TRUE skill! I have a close girlfriend like that — she could literally talk to anyone and make a serious connection while being charming, gracious, etc. Major goals!


  4. My trick at a party, networking event, kids’ school event is always the same – laugh! These events can be so awkward that I find people naturally gravitate to the participants who look like they are having the most fun. “oh look, that woman is laughing, she must be interesting/fun/not horrendous!” It works when I attend events knowing only my husband, boy does he make me laugh. It helps when walking up to someone solo at a networking event – hi, wow, this is so awkward [laugh], other person laughs, share awkward stories about how many times you changed a dress before attending first preschool social event [laugh]. I’m an attorney so I have been to some really, really boring events, but I find that when I laugh, I end up having a lot more fun and creating a lot more fun. It is my own personal magic trick.

    1. Oh I LOVE this, Elizabeth!!! Thank you for sharing this trick. Will definitely be thinking about this at my next event.


  5. Love the idea of approaching the first person you make eye contact with. Will pocket that for the future.

    Monday’s Child in Alexandria carries TBBC if you need an in-person source!

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