Ah, the Ugly Christmas Sweater party - the perfect office trend to capitalize on the obsession with irony that the younger, meme-that-isn’t-a-meme generating workers can appreciate that the older set don’t need to buy any new clothes for.
Picture this: you’re standing in the VFW hall; the one that you’ve made out in nearly every private bathroom stall of over the course of five years and seventeen ‘workplace occasions.’ You’re not the partying type. You and me, we are Above Such Things. We will spend the duration of the party quietly subtweeting the major idiots who dare to have a good time. There will be networking, there will be someone with an unreasonably good-looking spouse and there will be you, taking it all in.
Sip your complimentary Miller Lite, brush the Lofthouse cookie crumbs off your pompom-covered thrift shop masterpiece, and take it all in.
The “I Wore This Last Year Oh Well Let’s Get Drunk”
Elizabeth from accounting is troubled, but we don’t really like to talk about it. Yeah, that’s her over the open bar, slamming a drink she invented called “Santa’s Asshole” that’s one vodka mixed with another vodka. Her sweater? Yeah, she’s worn that for ten years running. Sometimes she wears it in June. Sometimes she uses it as a rag for when she spills whatever is in that flask she’s always carrying around. It’s more of a towel then a sweater, really. But there are Santas on it!
The “I Forgot This Was a Party Can We Pretend This Sweater Is Ugly” This one goes to New Guy Chuck in the corner, quietly making conversation with the interns. He hasn’t been added to all the necessary email lists yet and never got the notice that there was a party tonight, not to mention that he should bring an ugly sweater. So he cancelled on his girlfriend, threw on the hoodie in the back of his car and you can tell from the look on his face that he’d give anyone a month’s salary to ask him what his holiday plans are. Tough break, babe!
The “Was That The Theme? I Just Brought A Little Something From Home!” Allie stalled the beginning of a meeting by nearly two minutes today (and yes, you were counting) talking about how she forgot her ugly sweater, to the delight of the neglected New Guy Chuck. Turns out this was a lie by omission - she may have forgotten her sweater, but she did remember that cocktail dress she wore to her sister’s wedding and do you think it looks nice? She feels so overdressed!
But in reality she doesn’t, and we all know it, because the same damn thing happened at the Valentine’s Day party, the Halloween party and that weird party that was thrown in honor of John Travolta’s birthday for reasons that were not made clear.
The “Tryhard” Then there’s Darryl standing in the center of the dance floor that no one is using, doing whatever viral dance craze swept the teen market this year, wearing a sweater decked out in rhinestones and sequins. His eyes are saying, “Look at me! I am cool!” His mouth is saying, “I am cool! Look at me!” Everyone’s heart is saying in unison, “Poor Daryl. Everyone at his high school was too polite to bully him, and now look at him.”
The “Storyteller” In a misguided attempt at small talk, you ask Mike where he got his sweater, then immediately remember that saying anything, anything to Mike is to sign up for a two hour monologue that ends with him in tears or talking about how disappointing his son is.
“Well,” he begins, and you open a new bottle of beer as he tells you an impossibly boring story about how he had originally bought the sweater at a Macy’s, then returned it, then had a dream about it and at some point your eyes gloss over and you realize how drunk you’re getting just to deal with this man who feels that he has an Joyce-worthy tale on his hands.
The “Smarmy Asshole” This sweater is owned by the swarm of interns gathered by the open bar frantically praying that nobody cards them, and the senior staff member who is desperately trying to relate to them and hold onto his youth. Each one cost over seventy-five dollars in spite of being a basic crewneck sweatshirt with block lettering and yes, all interns will be retreating to someone’s basement apartment to black out immediately after the party. The senior staff member will try to cop and invite but will, of course, be denied.
The “Big Guy In Ladies Clothing” Look out, gang, here comes Jack, the most hilarious person in the office (self-proclaimed!) and he’s got a joke that he will refer to as a ‘humdinger’ for you. You see, he’s wearing a sweater that is - wait for it – not quite his size because - wait for it once more - it was originally intended…for a lady! He will be sure to insist to take a picture with you several times through the night, but will refuse to take them on his phone.
“Put it on yours,” he’ll chide gently, providing a visual reminder that his bare stomach is visible and that is the funniest thing you have ever seen. At social gunpoint, you will take pictures of him putting his hand over his mouth. He will try to date you and you will break his heart!
The “Competitor” There are people who can enjoy a party, and there are people who have done intense Facebook research on you before arriving and are unwilling to admit every conversation does not have a winner and loser, but rather two people who have wasted a number of minutes on their way to decomposition. He spends the evening showing off his fully electric, baubled, thirty-pound monstrosity to the room to light nods and clammy high fives as if campaigning for president.
At the end of the party he asks too loudly, “So, who won? Who won the sweater contest?”
“No one, dude,” answers a drunk marketing assistant. “No one.”
The “Doesn’t Actually Think It’s Ugly” Right before you decide to dip out a little early, you stop and say hello to Jenny, who is wearing the first legitimately-gotten ugly sweater you’ve seen all night. You compliment her on it, and as her face clouds over you immediately know you’ve said the wrong thing. Her eyes well up as she looks at the creepy baby Jesus dolls glued to her torso.
“This…is my favorite…sweater,” she says as tears spill down her cheeks, and you make a beeline for the door, swearing up and down that this is the last function you dare attend.
What are work parties for except making going to your parents’ house seem more palatable, anyway?
Jamie Loftus is a comedian and writer whose baby teeth have been bronzed and loaded into a gun for when the moment is right. You can find her some of the time, most days at @hamburgerphone or jamieloftusisinnocent.com.