Last Friday was my 41st birthday.

The Big 4-1.

Last year for my 40th, I threw myself a spectacular party.  This year, on a budget and feeling out of sorts, I told my husband that I didn’t want a present or a big to do-that we should save the money for the kid’s birthdays (5 and 6 days after mine) and Christmas.  I don’t need anything, anyway.  Or when I do I tend to find it a garage sale (I adore garage sales, if you didn’t know that).  I thought maybe we would invite a few people over for dinner, and then realized that I get embarrassed having people over now since I always ask them to bring pot-luck, and I didn’t want to feel that way that night.

And then I discovered my friend Mike was hosting a party in NYC. 

I like NYC in small doses.  A party that went from 6:30-9:30pm, that’s small doses.  But it was still a little overwhelming to think about.  I tend to have about two good hours of mingling in me before my introvert comes out and the only thing I was to do is be home in my comfy bed with some warm socks and a good book.  And with a two hour drive each way, that wasn’t happening.  To top it off, I only knew Mike, and there were supposed to be 150 people there.   Pretty intimidating. 

I left it up to the fates to decide.  If my husband could get a half day at work, we would go.  If not, whole night in bed cuddling it would be.  He got off of work.

And then I upped the ante.  Inspired by the success of my cross country road trop this summer where my kids and I spread a lot of joy, I asked 41 of my Facebook friends to hug someone in my honor, and I vowed to hug 41 people myself.  Might as well go crazy, right, and what a way to ensure that I connect with people rather than hiding in the corner. 

And so we went.  I got dressed at noon so I wouldn’t lose my nerve, and I looked hot.  High boots, cool skirt, a top that makes my boobs look spectacular.  We left at 1:30 and actually got into the city (and found a free parking spot to boot!) by 4.  We had to pee so bad once we got there, and luckily were able to use the facilities at the nearest restaurant we saw ( Il Bastardo on 21st and 7th).  They just so happened to have a great happy hour, and we had 2 hours to kill before heading to the party, so we stayed for an early dinner.

At the bar, I grabbed a little liquid courage (for me, that’s only ½ a glass), and started the process of hugging everyone at the bar (including the sexy English bartender, meooooow).  The people I asked were so excited to be part of my quest, and one person even suggested #41hugs for promotion purposes. Connected to strangers with a single hug.  Lovely.

The time passed quickly and soon it was time to go to the party.  On the way there, we passed the Museum of Sex, and decided to go back and check out the gift shop there to see how spicy it really was.  Committed to making it the funnest party ever (per Mike’s email to us pre-party with those exact words), I got a feather tickler to make my introductions memorable (and yes, someone later that night called me the worst introvert ever…I swear I am). 

The party hadn’t even started when we got there, so I was able to say hi to my friend early and know that even if I ducked out 15 minutes later, it would be ok since I said hello.  Two hours later, after meeting maybe 6 people (including this awesome girl that has the same biting wit as one of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster), and saying hello to the two others I already knew, we headed out.

I felt bad that I didn’t connect with more people.  That I didn’t talk up my work, and my 41 hugs quest (I only got to about 27 by the end of the night, not including my family).  But I was done.    My head hit the pillow at 12:45pm.

Since Friday, I’ve been reading blog posts by others at the party, talking about all the amazing people they met, and how they connected deeply.  Truth was, for me, I felt disconnected there.  For many of the people that I tried to connect with, they seemed distracted by all of the other people that were there that they rather talk to than me.  FOMO, perhaps.  Some even were rude, and some seemed to be feeling the same way I was.  

Today, I was listening to an interview by Susan Cain, author of Quiet, and was struck when she said most introverts find it easiest to scope out a kindred spirit at a party or networking event, and to be ok with finding just that one person at every event.  Someone you really connect with…eventually you’ll have a bunch of people you’re truly connected to, that see you and love your work, instead of a bunch of cards for people you don’t remember and that don’t remember you. 

And for that, despite my social discomfort, and the fact that my sexy boots killed my feet and I had to hobble long blocks to the car, the night was successful: 

1)    I left the house

2)    I hugged strangers

3)    I let my playful side come out

4)    I challenged myself

5)    I knew when it was time to quit and acted on it

6)    I met a kindred spirit

7)    I felt supported and loved by my husband

Happy 41 to me.