Oh God, I find this whole Christmas malarky so awkward. I go to parties and try to pretend that I am not about to pass out from the effort of masking my panic. I fear the simple hug or handshake, in case well-meaning friends discover that I am actually a quivering, sweating mass. I field perfectly innocent questions from friends about my alcohol-free drinks, turn them inwards and feel like a leper. Then I run away, hide in my lounge and drink a cup of tea, breathing a deep sigh of relief that it is all over. How can you let friends know that it is not them that freaks you out, but the experience of having to converse and appear confident in front of more than 20 people without looking like a mentalist?
The whole experience of receiving gifts embarrasses me beyond belief. Example: I won a tin of Roses at the school Christmas dinner on Wednesday. I was delighted and grateful. What a shame I was so petrified that I shuffled up to receive my gift like a sulky teenager. I was afraid of being looked at. I was sharing centre stage with two elves and a Santa so, with hindsight, I can see the focus would have been elsewhere. I just wanted to disappear. Schoolchildren are not a problem; they look at me all day long and I don't care. Fellow adults, however and increasingly, terrify me.
I have noticed that, with age, I am actually becoming LESS outgoing. I am certain it's supposed to be the other way round. Perhaps it's because I've gained weight in the last 3 years, I don't bother getting dressed up anymore because I don't feel like I could look good in anything except jeans and a t-shirt. Don't get me wrong, I have always worn jeans and t-shirts, but I would occasionally mix it up and wear a skirt and some fishnets. I used to spend 10 minutes a day applying liquid eyeliner, and now I'm lucky if I remember to run a brush through my hair. Part of the reason is tiredness; I'm doing quite well in my NQT year but I'm wearing myself out worrying about messing it all up. I am so exhausted at 3.10pm that I am only fit for napping on the train home and sitting in my lounge staring at Living tv, absentmindedly stroking my cat. The spunk has gone. I don't feel interesting anymore. By the time I get to thirty I will probably be living in a cave somewhere off Lands End, and will have named all the seagulls within a 3 miles radius.
Some of these issues are perennial, but mainly they tend to come to the fore at Christmas. More people commit suicide at this time of year than any other, and while I have no plans whatsoever to shuffle off this mortal coil anytime soon, I can understand why. The pressure is intense. Especially if you already have a slight predisposition towards depression. That baby Jesus has a lot to answer for. Little fucker.
And the worst part of this Christmas nightmare? I know that it is all my own doing. If I weren't so bloody inept at being sociable I wouldn't make mountains out of molehills. Molehills seem like a cosy refuge right now. Mmm, molehills.