Do I HAVE to Attend the Holiday Party?

Dear Experts, I work at a small office. There are only 20 of us. It's my first year here and I just learned the owner is taking us all out to dinner at this fancy restaurant for the holidays. I'm pretty quiet at work and don't really socialize with anyone there, so the idea of spending the whole evening with these folks sounds terrible to me. However, I heard someone at work talking about having another party that night to go to and saying she will have to cancel because she doesn't want to skip the dinner for fear it would hurt her career. When I asked her about it, she said the boss really prides himself on treating us all to dinner and that he'd takes it personally as not caring about being part of the team if we don't go. I think that is ridiculous, but I also don't want to hurt my career. Is there a way to skip it without it looking bad? Here is how our CAREEREALISM-Approved Experts answered this question on Twitter:Q#386 Attnd party: small grp means chance 2 get 2 know ea/othr better. If u dont enjoy, cnsidr it ugly sweatr gift of yr. (@sweetcareers) Q#386 No. Unless you have a legitimate family emergency, don't even think about skipping it. (@gradversity) Q#386 A cohesive team = a productive team; boss is planting seeds & nurturing unity. Go and be a team member. (@resumeservice) Q#386 Getting 2 know co-workers outside office is interesting. It's 1 nite. Go w/ right attitude, might have fun & bld rapport. (@DawnBugni) Q#386 Attend party. It's an investment in your career. Actions speak volumes. Attending sends right message. (@jtodonnell) Q#386 1. Consider dinner mandatory. 2. Join Toastmasters/other networking program so can get over career-killing shyness. (@ResumeStrategy) Q#386 Your absence would be SO obvious, you risk of alienating boss/colleagues. Think of dinner as work, not fun. (@juliaerickson) Q#386 Encourage u to attend, keeping in mind people like talk abt selves. Practice listening/smiling skills-u'll b fine! (@ValueIntoWords) Our Twitter Advice Project (T.A.P.) is no longer an active campaign. To find an answer to the above question, please use the "Search" box in the right-hand column of this website.