The office holiday party is a confusing thing. On the one hand, it's going to be free food and booze (if it's not, we are so so sorry for you). On the other hand, it's likely full of awful people and extremely awkward situations, and overcompensating on alcohol could have an embarrassing, lasting effect on your life. After all, your colleagues aren't your family, they are people you have to see every day.
So peep the following scenarios ahead of time, lest they become the half-recollected memories of a 3 AM visit from the ghost of your future unemployed self.
A really drunk superior
Although they've never even met you in the several years you've worked at the company, the really drunk superior is suddenly your best friend. Bizarrely, you get locked into a deep conversation about a mutual love of avant-garde jazz from the 1960s and agree to send each other some YouTube clips of John Coltrane live performances during your week off. Dude even throws a couple of your unnecessarily expensive cocktails on his personal tab and tells you a story about that time he shared a private box at a Knicks game with Louis CK but couldn't figure out who he was until halfway through the cab ride to the hotel. When you go back into work after the holidays pretty sure you're getting a raise from your new best friend, he won't even remember your name.
That person from an unknown department who you've had a crush on for like a year, but only see every three weeks or so while in line for coffee, where you can never muster more than a "hey" because there is actually no reason to talk to them about anything other than the fact that you feel like you've been accidentally creeping on them for months.
As it so happens, you run into them at the end of the night when you're wasted and your contacts are blurry because you've been up for like 20 hours and you're pretty sure someone is waiting for you in a cab outside. But then you make eye contact, and time stops. And then you actually introduce yourself and get into enough of a conversation that you feel like you're getting comfortable—comfortable enough that they tell you they'll be bummed to not see you around anymore since they're taking a job at one of the company's satellite offices three time zones away.
The really hot and cool spouse of someone who is awful
What's this? A new face? A stranger! Someone you can potentially sleep with and never see again! At the office party! You slide in mid-group convo and are immediately taken with this person. Witty, a wonderful laugh, and owns the world's last interesting opinion on Drake. You end up alone with this person and after a solid five minutes of AAA-flirting you ask the obvious, if a bit late, question, "Why are you at this party?" The answer irrevocably changes your worldview permanently. "Oh, I'm dating/married to [insert your sworn work enemy]." Really? This incredible person lets Alistair of Sales ("Wanna take a ride in my Tesla, bro?") put his (presumably) overly-cologned privates near hers? Does she not know about Alistair of Sales's Monday Morning Recap of His Entire Weekend That Everyone in the Office Hears Regardless of Whether or Not They Want To? His two-weeks-behind-the-meme emails? You feel nothing but pity for this lovely stranger you just met, and you want to hold them and tell them it will be alright. Then you do and Alistair of Sales reports you to HR.
Donna from HR
Oh god, oh god, she's walking toward me! Do not talk to anyone in HR if you want to have a job in the morning. Just don't.
The CEO who has the beer tickets
Before 9 PM: You're so friendly when you sidle up to her, mentioning a few of the "outstanding initiatives" the company has been involved with this year to show that you're a team player and well deserving of the perforated pieces of cardstock she's going to bestow upon you. Chances are she has no idea who you are, so you try not to overstay your welcome. You're in and out in like three minutes and now well on your way to beer town.
9 PM - Midnight: You've been eyeing the CEO for like 35 minutes, waiting until someone you know is chatting with her so you can use that as an excuse to get close. You laugh a little too hard at her lame jokes and have no idea what "great project" she's talking to your "friend" about, though you pretend to be super interested, until you space out for a second and all of a sudden you're standing alone with the CEO clutching your handful of beer tickets, mumbling something about needing to take a piss.
After midnight: You just stagger up to her and yell, "How 'bout some more of those fantastic beer tickets?!" which, weirdly, seems to impress her.
The significant other of the colleague you foolishly hooked up with
Maybe you had a drunken one-night stand with your hot-but-taken colleague after a team-building night, or perhaps it was a full-blown affair. Either way, they are still unavailable as fuck and now their significant other, a walking, talking embodiment of the poor decisions you've made, is in your face. Harness that guilt and shame into something useful by keeping it in your pants tonight. And forever.
The person you've worked with for years but have never spoken to
And now it's way too awkward to ask their name, but you ended up at the snack table at the same time and somehow they know your name (have you even spoken before???) and now you have to get through the next five minutes of small talk without making it obvious you don't know their name or anything about them.
The boss's 'partner' who actually turns out to be a one-night stand who won't leave
What an amazing holiday party this was! But wait, there's more. You've been invited to go back to your boss's place for an after-party that she says will include "Scotch that you can't afford." So you and a few colleagues go back to her condo (which isn't quite as nice as you thought it would be) and she tells you to grab beer from the kitchen. In the kitchen you find her husband and you tell him, "thanks for having us," and he kinda sways a little and says, "you have a really beautiful mouth." You are super creeped out and quickly grab a corporate beer from the fridge and get the fuck out of there. A few minutes later you get a frantic text of "help me get out of this conversation in the kitchen" from your work husband. You go to save him from your boss's husband, who, now that you notice it, looks like he's on some really serious painkillers. You make old-people convo and somehow there's a joke about the Beatles and then there's an incredibly racist joke about Yoko. Getting out of this conversation seems impossible and you ask a question (God, you are such an amateur, you think, just get out of there) about how long they've been married. "Oh," says the husband. "We actually just met last night at O'Reilly's pub."
Suddenly this person becomes the most interesting awful person you've ever met. Twenty minutes later he tries to kiss you and you realize your boss is the loneliest person in the world.
That dude you haven't talked to since you got wasted together at last year's holiday party
Oh shit. It's all coming back to you now. You'd only talked to him a few times in the office, but he seemed pretty chill and had managed to swipe a bottle of bourbon from the bar, so you spent the next three hours camped out in a stairwell trading shots, talking shit about all your coworkers, and complaining about the pointlessness of your respective university degrees. Now you feel guilty for never going to see his prog-metal band play, and you're pretty sure you never actually responded to his Facebook friend request. More importantly... how the hell was that a year ago? What have you even been doing with your life? You're pretty sure that just before you drained that bottle of bourbon and fired it down the stairwell last year, you made some big declaration about getting the fuck out of this place and moving to Berlin to finish a screenplay. And yet here you are, getting psyched up to do it all over again.
The company lawyer
Sure, he might try to seem cool (read: rich), but you can't shake that feeling you're drinking with someone who is only, like, twice-removed from a cop. He'll probably talk about his kids' extracurricular activities and regale you with tales of living in a baller-ass mansion in the suburbs. Between the facts that he probably earns your entire salary in Q1 of the fiscal year and doesn't understand your Drake reference (come on, dude, who are you??), you're going to want to use the washroom escape method for this one.
This person (either a comedian or an actor, depending on how attractive they are) is half-blazed and hates everyone in the room even more than you do. If you have a smoke with them by the back exit you are going to hear a hilarious takedown on all your coworkers and probably marry this person.
Almost always either painfully shy or overcompensating with entirely too much gregariousness, the intern is in a tough position at the holiday party (and, really, at all times; precarious labor is a bitch). Make them feel welcome if you're a good person, or, if you're like 90 percent of your coworkers, avoid them like the plague so you don't have to think about how much the place you work is paying them. Whatever you do: DON'T FUCK THE INTERN... unless you're another intern. (And if you're both consenting interns, make sure your parents know where you are spending the night so your direct supervisor doesn't get a call in the morning from some concerned father wondering why his daughter didn't come home from the staff party.)
The person from R&D who is always working on secret stuff and probably works way more hours than you and is a good example of what not to become. Ever.
This person will appear to be somewhat caught between handling their liquor and Australian-accent drunk, but is actually, in reality, extremely intoxicated and high off a number of different substances. This person is from another world—usually in their mid-30s, they'll probably end up giving you the best life advice you'll ever get at a party, but they also secretly realize events like this are a purgatory between a never-ending work week and chemically induced sleep. It's a break for them—if you want to even call it that. With all their infinite wisdom and wit, it may seem like you need them, but in reality, they really, really need you.
The person from accounting who seems to know way too much about everyone's personal lives, even though you're pretty sure she's not actually friends with anyone in the office, which probably means she's been Facebook stalking everyone in preparation for this party.
How could she possibly know that Beach Slang (your new favorite band) covered "Bastards of Young" (your favorite Replacements song) at that gig last month? There's just no way she was at that show. Does she have a Google alert set up for your tweets?
The person you want to hook up with that night but won't
Two beers in and you're probably thinking about the social economics of this one. They've had your eye all night (and probably week, or, honestly, month) and you can definitely strike up a conversation with them long enough to hold interest, but how are you going to pull this one off? These nights are long—there's plenty of drinking ahead. If you cloud your mind with how you're systemically going to make this work, you might not have any fun. Hell, you could put in hours of work and they might just ghost, only for you to learn about their disappearance when a coworker you only mildly like mentions that they took off a whole hour ago—with someone else from the party.
The person you hook up with that night
Disheartened by what happened above, you naturally gravitate back to the bar. That's when you notice that dude or woman you've done little more than nod at in the kitchen for an entire year. Except this time, their red-flannel-and-Chucks combination is looking fly as hell. How did you not realize sooner that they're a fucking dime? Probably because you're not regularly bombed off a million rum and eggnogs during the workweek. You proceed to talk shop, learning the ins and outs of their job (of which you will have zero recollection tomorrow). Eventually you suggest going for a cigarette, regardless of whether or not you smoke. Once outside, you drop the pretense and start making out in a dark stoop, unless you're a complete idiot and do it right out in the open where everyone can see (speaking from experience here). You ask the person where they live and irrespective of whether or not you're in the same vicinity, suggest sharing a ride. Sloppy sex with poor odds of finishing ensues. Unless it becomes a regular thing, you never speak again.
The person you'd been secretly dating for the past six months but broke up with two weeks ago
What you should do: be cordial when in close proximity but steer clear of each other for most of the night.
Far more likely scenarios:
1) You drunkenly corner them to analyze why things went south, but insist that you're TOTALLY FINE with it being over.
2) Passive-aggressively flirt with other colleagues in an attempt to make your ex jealous. No one else understands why you're acting this way, so you wind up making a lot of other party guests feel weird and uncomfortable, especially the people you're hitting on.
3) Sleep with your ex because they are still your only shot of getting laid. Regret it the next morning.
The person you assumed was straight edge until they offer you drugs
Well, that's a nice surprise.