A lot of the fun of a house party is in the buildup. You text your friends to coordinate arrival times; you share the mirror with your roommate as you both attempt to make your hair do things it doesn’t want to do; you ask your significant other to pick up the second-cheapest bottle of rosé at the liquor store down the block. Before you even arrive, you’ve created a tiny satellite party, and it gives you the strength and the momentum to make it to the real thing.
But sometimes you don’t have someone else to go with. Maybe it’s a party thrown by a new friend who exists outside your usual circle; maybe all your people ditched you. Maybe it’s just an event that sounded cool and you decided to say fuck it, who cares, I’ll see how it goes. What’s the point of living in [place where you live] and being [your age] years old if I always stick to the same old patterns?
Regardless of how brave you are, it can be hecka scary to walk into a house full of people where you might not know anyone. As a frequently solo party attendee, here are a few tips I’ve picked up to make it not only bearable, but sometimes even more fun than the usual grouped-up way.
1. Embrace the joy of it.
The freedom of going to a party alone can be unmooring, but so, so liberating. You don’t need to wait half an hour for your best friend to finish gluing fake eyelashes onto her real eyelashes before you can depart, and you also don’t need to leave the party before you’re ready to bounce because your gaggle has a Saturday Schedule™ to stick to.
There’s something weightless about being alone, without the burden of caring for someone else’s needs. You don’t need to feel responsible for carrying out a string of introductions or constantly checking in to make sure whoever you’re with is having a good time. All you have to care about is you, and if that means leaving after 20 minutes or staying to help the host clean up, more power to you. Framing it that way, rather than “I HAVE TO HAVE THE MOST INCREDIBLE TIME OR ELSE,” helps take the pressure off the evening. (Or day! Daytime parties rule.)
2. Also embrace the fear.
When you have a buffer person (or people) at a party, it’s easy to just spend the whole night talking to them. And that can be great! Some of my favorite nights have been spent huddled in the corner with a good friend, occasionally peeling off to engage with others (usually people we want to kiss) but then circling back to debrief and conspire and most likely go to bed early.
But other times it’s good to feel like you don’t have a safety net, to walk into a room and think well, if I don’t go talk to that person I guess I’ll be talking to nobody. And then go talk to them! I realize this sounds like a full nightmare to many people, but truly, it can be a great way to light a fire under your own butt, and it’s always much easier once you’ve broken the seal.
3. Ask questions and actually listen to the answers.
This is advice that applies to all parties, not just solo endeavors, but when I’m feeling especially exposed I find that it helps to turn my attention away from myself and onto the other partygoers. This requires a little bit of faking it until you make it, because chances are the first person you meet isn’t going to be your PARTY SOULMATE; they’ll most likely be a mildly pleasant friend of a friend who works in something called, like, "ad ops digital marketing experience consulting," and yet you will still need to ask them questions as if they are the most deeply fascinating person in the world. Pretty much everyone feels just as awkward and eager for connection as you do, and the best way to feel seen and heard is to make someone else feel seen and heard.
(On that note, repeating someone’s name back to them a couple of times is a good way to remember it. Even if it feels dorky and unnatural, try it; it’s actually very intimate.)
4. The food / drink situation is a great home base.
You know how everyone at a party always gravitates toward the kitchen even though it’s usually the smallest, most unwieldy part of the house? That’s because a kitchen gives you a purpose, even if you have just invented it in that very moment: acquire a beer or a snack, or wash your hands, or help the host. So adopt one of those purposes as your own! You can even get meta and joke about how weird it is that everyone is crammed in the kitchen when the living room is so large and empty. Why is that???? Haha!!!
Again, this is boring mom advice for all seasons, but it’s especially good to keep in mind when you’re by yourself: keep an eye on your drinking. It can be tempting to make that your sole activity when you’re alone, and especially when you want something to do with your hands (WHOSE IDEA WAS HANDS), but try swapping in water and pacing yourself. It sucks to be in a position where all of a sudden you can’t control yourself, especially when you’re not surrounded by people you trust.
5. Keep your phone in your pocket (at least for like, twenty minutes at a time).
I know: your phone is where the people who know and love you live, and is also the best way to look busy when you’re feeling awkward. But that’s why you should ditch it! You’re already shedding the comfortable armor of partying en masse, so you might as well go all in and try not to fall back on the screen-slash-shield you’ve come to love and hate. You’ll look way more approachable, and again, with any luck it’ll force you to start talking to some new folks. And if you really need to get away for a minute, to collect your thoughts and scroll through Instagram and pat yourself on the back for being so courageous, that’s why God invented bathrooms.
Congrats, you did it!
Whether you stayed all night or just popped by to say hello, chances are going alone was better than not going at all. And of course, now comes the best part of any party, solo or otherwise: the part where you get to head home.