The Cult of Not Missing Out

She was a true believer … and then she broke free

Illustration by Travis Jackson

Illustration by Travis Jackson

I’ve always been the type of person who can’t stand to miss a party. Back when I was growing up in Texas—a land of lesser parties—this psychological condition manifested itself in a lot of vague wistfulness. I knew I was missing out on something, but I didn’t really know what that thing was. It got so bad that my dad would try to cheer me up. He would explain to me how some people wasted all their time cruising bars, always looking for the next best thing and never finding it. But he told me that I didn’t have to wait to turn 21 or worry about finding the “happening” bar once I did. He said that instead of always looking for the party I should consider the party to be a quality within myself. And to remember that I brought the party with me wherever I went.

That, in fact, I was the party.

The advice worked well in a city where nothing was all that exciting. I learned to have fun in any situation, and, in the process, I often ended up being the life of the party. But then I moved to Las Vegas, and it was like arriving at an all-you-can-eat buffet of socializing. And since I was a “local lady,” with the attendant no-cost admission to any club or pool party, the buffet was free. Why be content to be just-me when just-me-at-a-party was so much more fun? If there was a happening place to be, I had to be there. Before my boxes were even unpacked, I had been thoroughly, and seemingly irreversibly, initiated into the Cult of Not Missing Out.

• • •

Among the basic human needs—food, water, shelter and all that—there is another one: the need for excitement. Whole industries have answered the call to fill that need, including one called “Las Vegas.” Those industries were so successful that they reached market saturation, and in order to continue growing they had to progress from creating solutions to problems to creating problems that needed new solutions. Which means that even when I was just a regular pre-Vegas lonely kid, somebody was already out there developing a way to fix my loneliness, and then some. It’s the “and then some” that eventuallly became a problem.

But for my first couple years, “problem” wasn’t in my Vegas vocabulary. Why should it have been when I had the disco version of the Midas touch? Instead of everything I touched turning to gold, everything I touched turned into a party.

Unfortunately, the myth of King Midas doesn’t end with golden party favors. As the fable goes, the blessing became a curse when he tried to eat lunch and his Whopper turned to solid gold. Midas nearly starved to death (Dionysus, the Greek party god, took pity on him and lifted the curse); I just got really, really tired.

And still the invitations poured in. On nights I just wanted to rest or see my family or write or clean or exercise, there was always some unique and marvelous opportunity that I couldn’t possibly miss out on. You can’t pass up the unique and marvelous just because you have some routine living to do. And so I powered through and ignored the exhaustion as long as I could. Once I even went out every single night of the week for approximately three weeks in a row, laundry be damned! But who can keep that up? I mean, you can’t go to a party without clean clothes. I tried to miss out, but the pain of it was excruciating. To make matters worse, I kept thinking the one night that I stayed in was the night that I would have met my soul mate.

So I had to keep going. Each party produced less and less of a high. I was stuck in a paradox: If I stayed in, I wished I had gone out; if I went out, I spent the evening sort of wishing I had stayed in. But every so often there was a party jackpot, a transcendently fun evening that kept me hooked. And my personal cherry-red car on the emotional roller coaster hurtled down the track faster and faster.

• • •

Then came the annual epic weekend of dueling conventions: AVN and CES. That’s the Adult Video News and the Consumer Electronics Show, that extraordinary Vegas convergence of nerds and porn stars. During this weekend, our already-electric city buzzes with an extra current of energy. Plus, there are tons of cool parties.

When Vegas was new to me, I was content to gawk at exotic passersby and maybe stumble upon a party. But this year, that was no longer enough. I was obsessed with placing myself in the center of the action. The only problem was that I wasn’t invited to anything. It seems I have no affiliation with or interest in either porn or electronics. Excluding the afternoon that I forged my way onto the CES convention floor, I spent the entire week in an ever-increasing fever pitch of despair, watching the parties happen without me. It all came to a head in a pathetic, desperate and ultimately unsuccessful last-minute attempt to attend the AVN awards ceremony. I stayed home that Saturday night, sitting alone with my computer at my kitchen table, monitoring the night’s events on Twitter.

That’s when I realized I was in hell.

In a blinding flash of insight somehow dredged from the empty pixels of meaningless Tweets, I understood everything my dad had told me all those years ago. It was silly and absurd to be wasting a night of my life, a pearl of that precious necklace, in misery over missing out on something that I didn’t even like. And that’s when I decided to leave the Cult of Not Missing Out.

At least until pool season.

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