Greet your host enthusiastically. Rather than flick your eyebrows —they are not antenna—extend one of your hands and gently shake the hand of your host. Offer a small gift, preferably something you have bought or made, rather than foraged from the Burger King dumpster. Put on the reindeer ears that she gives you the little bells and flashing lights will remind you that you are now a mammal.
If there is a buffet, do not whirl your head around constantly for fear that anyone behind you is going to squash you or steal food from your plate. It is okay to silently curse the loss of your compound eye, but don’t obsess about it. No zigzagging through the room. You now have only two legs and you must master the bipedal gait while holding a plate of food. Practice at home beforehand.
If there are poinsettias at your table, fight the urge to hold them up to your nose and taste them. Ingesting the blossoms might make you sick. And you are too big to bury yourself inside the petals and gather nectar. Unfold your napkin, put it on your lap, and use it to wipe your mouth during the meal, rather than continually licking your lips with your tongue.
If someone waves to you from across the room, do not assume they are from your former colony with a special message and start shaking your body. Just smile and ask: “How is the family?”
While eating, chew slowly and do not gorge. In your new life, there is no need to eat as if you might not ever see food again. And it’s best to avoid the eggnog. A tipsy former insect could be unpredictable. Instead, turn your attention to getting to know the others at your table through polite conversation. Safe subjects: Books. Warning! Try not to talk only of Kafka and how he got it wrong in The Metamorphosis. Movies: Ant-Man or The Fly would be acceptable films to discuss, but do not express a secret desire for a remake of Killer Bees where the bees actually win. Music: Great choice! Everyone loves music. If the subject turns to opera, however, don’t denounce Madame Butterfly for not featuring a real butterfly.
If talk at your table turns to New Year’s Resolutions, don’t share the goals you set during your support group about remembering that you can’t really fly or trying to wean yourself from your addiction to carrion. Instead, it’s better to just repeat what others say, such as “I hope to lose a few pounds next year,” or “Spend less time at the office.”
If, on your way back to the buffet for seconds, someone corners you by the mistletoe and tries to kiss you, turn your head to the side demurely, as if you are shy. Your instinct to bite is still too powerful to engage in kissing. Maybe next year.
Congratulations! If you make it to the Yule Log cake, you have survived your first holiday party as a human! Before you leave, be sure and thank your host. You might even offer to stay and help with the dishes. If nothing else, ask if you may take out the trash. You could stash it in your car, drive home, and just for old time’s sake, rifle through it later for a delicious midnight snack.
Ashley Memory is a former blue orchard bee living in the ancient Uwharrie mountains of Randolph County, N.C. She has finally accepted that she can no longer fly, but she confesses to gathering nectar wherever she can. Her poetry and prose have recently appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Gyroscope Review, The Ginger Collect, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she is a two-time recipient of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize sponsored by the N.C. Writers’ Network. She is currently over the moon that in January 2019, Coffin Bell will publish “Orchard #9,” her narrative poem about a haunted cherry orchard.