It's not that they're mean or something, they just don't really talk to people they don't know (there are exceptions of course), I figured that out at the first birthday bash five years ago. They won't even talk to my wife - at least, not much - because she was never that involved in town life. While I find this very off-putting I'll usually play nicely since it's just once or twice a year. I'll try to talk to someone, succeed for two minutes, then wander on wondering what the hell these people do to be so odd and boring, but basically: no harm done.
Not this time. This time it was truly horrific. I wanted to retreat so badly I ended up trying to avoid talking to people. I chatted to my wife, focused on my food and my drink and my phone camera app. I could not keep the happy face going by any means and was probably highly embarassing to my wife (sorry, hon). Unfortunately she didn't get that I was trying to keep back and did things like letting me enter the room first, all gentlemanly but oh-so-wrong this time. To me it felt like being shoved into a position I couldn't handle. Going in first meant drawing looks and I didn't want that. Just let me hide, please, I thought and begged her to go in first.
I figure the problem wasn't the party as such, I would gladly have partied with my own friends, I think. Of course exhaustion plays a role (and my wife's aggressive undertones thanks to her depression aren't helping much either), but what most got to me was having to save face.. stiff upper lip...
I'm usually a happy, quite friendly person! Maybe I should just draw my conclusions accordingly: These people are un-entertaining (I admit my impression goes along the lines of 'small town, small minds') --> stay the fuck home, especially if you're having a bad day/week/month.
(Maybe I'll post some pics that I took tomorrow.)