Claire Messud  

       I am consumed by Post-Party Depression. This affliction is worsened by the fact that I live in the nation’s capital. I know from experience that the more parties one attends, the less depressed one is after each party. Here, not being of a political bent, I go to very few, so my PPD hits with a vengeance. Moreover, I take on everyone else’s PPD as well. This is a town where the Cartesian cogito long ago gave way to Nietzsche’s will to power. People who get up at 5 a.m. for a quick jog before sitting down to run the free world have no time to ponder the self and its attendant failings with the devotion I bring to the task.
       My PPD consists of reliving, in 3-D Technicolor Sensurround, every gaffe and faux pas committed in a gathering’s few short hours. This weekend’s bash was the 40th birthday of my husband’s boss. I started off by serving myself at the bar, because the bartender (surely a relative or friend of our host) appeared too busy. This flustered her, probably because she thought I thought her incompetent. It also made me look like a drunk. The middle-aged man in black tie beside me (surely a relative of our host) smiled and said, “In a hurry, aren’t we?”
       This was nothing next to my animated discussion in the buffet line of my husband’s twentysomething colleague and his fortysomething date: “She’s a friend of his mother’s? Not really? So are they …?” Need I mention who stood inches away, tackling the salad servers with studious nonchalance?
       The sting of such reveries does not abate with time. I can recall, with ghastly clarity, social disasters from 10 or even 20 years ago. This is all the more surprising because my memory is generally terrible. Recently, riding an escalator in Toronto, I was greeted effusively by a young woman whose face was only faintly familiar: “Did we go to school together?” I asked. “No,” said she, puzzled and dismayed. “I am your cousin.”