How “The Dick Van Dyke Show” gave me social anxiety disorder

I often avoid parties. The thought of going to a party gives me a touch of anxiety. Will people like me outside of work? Will I have anything other than Doctor Who to talk about? Will I know everyone there? What do I do if I don’t know everyone? How on earth will I hear everyone over the music? You know, absurd questions like these race through my head. Luckily, I bring the Mrs. and all is okay. At the very least, my significant other never leaves me alone to publicly humiliate myself, and when I do she covers nicely for me. The drive home usually consists of her telling me it’s not as bad as it felt at the time.

I was invited to two parties this past weekend. While work kept me away from both, I started wondering why I get so anxious at the very idea of going to parties.

As a kid, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show were appointment television for me. Nick At Night ran them all the time. Between the ages of 10 and 13, I though Dick Van Dyke was the funniest person on the face of the planet. It’s a credit to how well the show holds up that I was clueless as to how old the show was.

Dick Van Dyke played Rob Petrie, the head writer of The Alan Brady Show, a comedy hour style show that was based on Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows. We never really got to see the show within the show, which was fine by me. Rob and Laura were the real stars anyway.

They often would host the most amazing parties. With the usual furniture set cast aside, the living room floor because center stage for anyone who came to their event (mostly Rob’s co-workers). Obviously everyone would be drunk, but we (the viewing audience) never knew that. Rob would sing, Laura would dance, Buddy would play the cello (plus tell a few jokes) and Rose Marie would belt out a tune in her smoky voice. Everyone seemed to be a performer.

When Rob’s brother came by he was always encouraged to perform, but he would always get very nervous and go to bed (how anyone could sleep during these parties is a mystery). He would come out some time later and be the most wild guy on the living room floor. The character suffered from a kind of sleepwalking that caused him to call everyone “Buford” while he played his banjo and sang.

As I grew up, every sitcom that followed seemed to show every lead character needed to perform at the parties they went to. The worst was The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary Richards was cursed at having the worst parties in the history of her work place.

Problem is, that’s not real life. No one expects you to do anything at their party, except have a good time. So the more I try to figure out what you’re supposed to do at parties I’ve realized that I am not going to be called to the center stage for my vaudeville act. As a real life adult, the more I discover I need more small talk for life outside of work.

Do you want to talk about classic TV, Doctor Who, or comic books? Them I will be a hit at your place. I’m perfect for geek a party, that’s my crowd (always has been).

Honestly, I love that people are nice enough that they invite me. I don’t always make it, but I do make an effort.