For a girl, sixteen is often the magic number: the apex of the teenage years, it represents the abandonment of juvenile values and a preview into the maturity of adulthood. Sweet sixteens are a North American tradition, typically spanning the later half of sophomore year and beginning half of junior year. While many of these parties can be memorable, the frequency of the celebrations can get exhausting, especially for more introverted attendees. If parties aren’t your thing, is it possible to still have fun?
1. Know the Guests
Typically, the most frightening part of attending any party is not knowing who else will be there. Familiar faces can provide a sense of normalcy amidst booming music and the clatter of high heels on the dance floor. Sweet sixteens can get exhausting even for the biggest extroverts, and having people around you will help when you want to escape for a bit. It is best to be comfortable with at least four or five guests, preferably from different friend groups, so that you can alternate who you stay with throughout the night.
Knowing the people around you can have a comforting effect, and it gives you people to bring when you want to take a break and go to the bathroom or down to sit in the lobby. If possible, talk to the birthday girl about seating arrangements beforehand. While many hosts understand friendship dynamics between their guests, having to be conscientious of the specific needs of what can be hundreds of people can get exhausting, which occasionally leads to an awkward dinner atmosphere. Asking who will be sitting near you provides a sense of predictability, and if the planned arrangements do not, it is sometimes early enough for changes to be made. Seeing people you’re relaxed around give into the ambiance of the event can be a great incentive to get involved as well.
2. Coordinate Outfits…and Bring Flats!
Although standing out from the crowd can be extremely appealing to some, it can be embarrassing if it isn’t intentional. Speaking to other guests, or even people who have previously attended sweet sixteens if this is your first one, about attire prevents you from being instantly noticeable the entire night. At most of the sweet sixteens that I have been to this season, most girls wore black or white knee-length dresses with dark or nude heels. While some girls tend to wear dresses that are longer, or (much, much) shorter, or opt for another route entirely, it is important to understand what the crowd will look like. Of course, once you have information about what other guests are wearing, it is your choice if you would like to follow the norm, but having an understanding of what the norm is before you decide to defy it is crucial.
If you are going with what is typically worn, make sure to bring flats or socks to change into during the party. Relying on the party host to provide socks can fail when you need it most, and girls often underestimate how much they are willing to bear. Some (powerful, strong-willed) girls will keep theirs on throughout the night, but there is absolutely no shame in changing either. At the first sweet sixteen of the 2016 season, another girl showed up with a formal black dress and Ugg slippers, which is another type of bravery in and of itself. For boys, dress code appears to be more relaxed, typically including a dress shirt, nice pants, and a tie… and you won’t have to deal with heels. While coordinating is still recommended, there is less room for error. Having an idea of what to wear can reduce paranoiac anxiety about having everyone look at you, which can be the case for many introverts.
3. Understand When to Say No
While stepping out of your comfort zone is important, doing it too often can be exhausting, garnering an outcome opposite of what was intended. If you have repeated or simultaneous sweet sixteens, not taking on more than you can handle is imperative. It is very much preferred if you can determine conflicts in advance, as it isn’t great to have a relationship for bailing out at the last minute. However, if something comes up, whether it is a family conflict or being overwhelmed with schoolwork, it is natural and you should be honest with your host. Accepting every single invitation is not expected of you, and there is nothing wrong with saying no if a particular party gives you bad feelings. Not knowing anyone, being uneasy with other guests, or not having a ride are serious concerns and should be treated as such before you RSVP.
Pushing yourself past your boundaries is a great thing, but it should always be done safely and in a way that minimizes anxiety. Knowing what to expect can be a great way to get past any fears that you might have about the social scene. Remember that no one is really looking at you and have fun!