AITA for falling apart at a
My newly vaxxed friends and I (28 F) gathered for the first dinner party since the pandemic started. My friend (29 F) was hosting with her new husband (29 M), who she tied the knot with during the pandemic in a small ceremony in their living room. It was great to see them so in love. It seemed like everyone had taken the time to improve themselves. Someone (28 M) was now fluent in Mandarin. Someone else (30 F) mastered the art of French cooking, said she could spank Julia Child in the kitchen. Another person (32 F) had gotten in shape during quarantine and had to buy new, smaller pants. None of my pants fit for the opposite reason. Sweats are all I had left. I knew my friend would object to me wearing that to her dinner party with tapered candles in gold candlesticks (wedding presents from her aunt and uncle), so I had to wear an old elastic-waist skirt hiked higher, which made it shorter than I would’ve preferred. I felt kind of exposed. I’d been holding myself together with paperclips and a prayer for the last eight months. I was becoming strange.
“What about you?” the Mandarin master asked me. “What did you do?”
It was like being back in high school with the teacher calling on me because he knew I hadn’t done the homework and was hoping he could embarrass me into feeling better about himself. And not only had I not learned anything during quarantine, but it turned out I hadn’t learned anything from high school either. I just stared at the Mandarin master until someone cleared their throat and changed the subject.
I was doing my best to smile and cheer everyone’s successes when my right eyebrow fluttered off my face and into my neighbor’s gazpacho. No one noticed. My neighbor kept slurping soup. My left eyebrow soon followed to the floor. Okay, eyebrows I can live without. That’s what Sephora is for. But then my nose dropped onto my lap. My hand covered my face like I was trying to cover my full mouth while speaking. There were no holes where my nose was. It was like I’d never had one.
My friend kept talking about her wedding, all the things that couldn’t be captured in the numerous Facebook photo albums, when my left ear slipped off. I heard everyone’s muffled voices from the floor where the “c” curve of my ear cheekily peeked up at me. Fortunately, my pandemic locks covered for me. My mouth went next. My bright red lips in my lap, puckering as if for a kiss that would never come now.
The newly fit person noticed me pushing food around my plate and said, “You didn’t develop an eating disorder, did you? There are better ways to lose that weight.” Everyone chuckled. I shook my head slightly, afraid to disturb more body parts. But I lost my second ear.
My DD breasts, one by one, plopped onto my legs before toppling onto the floor in two loud slaps. “What was that?” my friend mouthed. Everyone looked around. My eyes chose this moment to pop out like ping pong balls and bounce across the table. Through my detached eyes, I saw the horror on my friends’ faces as they understood.
Chairs ground against the wood floor as they all worked to flee me. My floor ears could distantly hear the screaming and dithering. My friends were so out of practice with tragedy that they didn’t know what to do. My hair dropped to the floor like a game of Pick-Up Sticks, inciting a fresh round of screams. Thankfully they sounded more hurt than I felt, although I was running out of body parts. I kept thinking I would break apart like a Barbie. But then thinking wasn’t a problem anymore. My head lolled off and rolled away smooth like a honeydew.
As someone dialed 911, my friend said, “You ruined my dinner party!”
Am I The Asshole?
If everyone is talking about how amazing their lives are, you’re not allowed to say yours sucks right now. It’s not socially acceptable. “AITA for falling apart at a dinner party” is rooted in this convention. And while I understand why it exists, it forces people in less advantageous situations to pretend that everything is okay. The thing about pretending is, you can only do it for so long. The body knows. The body remembers. You can only keep it together for so long before you fall apart.
Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in CRAFT, Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is available for pre-order from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.