There are certain self-evident truths in this world, things that someone will state and you find yourself thinking (perhaps in a French accent), ‘But of course!’ Some truths occur on a greater, cosmic level, such as gravity and Godwin’s Law. Some hit a little bit closer to home. This post is about a specific, smaller truth and how it affects my life and the lives of those around me.
The Truth: I am really bad at parties.
I’ve made this assertion to most of the people in my life at least once, and it’s often met with some resistance. Everyone seems to think they’re bad at parties. This is not the case and this misconception can be quite frustrating. True, everyone finds themselves in uncomfortable situations. Everyone has stories of social mishaps that are hilarious in hindsight. That’s not the same as being genuinely bad at parties. Remember when ‘awkward’ became synonymous with Zooey Deschanel? The pilot for New Girl came out and suddenly everyone thought being awkward was cute. ‘She thinks she can wear overalls on a date! She’s probably got some undiagnosed form of Autism, but whatever she’s really hot LOOK HOW ADORKABLE SHE IS.’ The fact remains that this was not awkward at all; this was Zooey Deschanel. Actually awkward things were subsequently denoted to ‘creepy’. It was a dark and confusing time.
My point being, there really are some people in this world who are terrible at parties. I am one of them, I know that I am one of them, and the proof that I am one of them comes in the form of people being concerned about what will happen if they invite me to parties.
Not that there isn’t ample evidence to support their concern, of course. I exist in an (obviously) small circle, and enough of them have seen me in the throes of some socialization-induced anxiety episode for it to get around. On a less dramatic but related note, I’m a hopeless introvert. The thought of striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know intimately is laughable to me. On occasion, I can worm my way into a nearby discussion if it covers a super comfortable topic, such as cats or Oscar Wilde. The danger in this, however, is I am rather susceptible to overexcitement, and then I break things — like myself and people’s ear drums and prized family heirlooms. I have become That Girl in more ways than I am at all comfortable.
I wasn’t always this way. There was a time and place, many moons ago, when I kicked ass at parties. I was the party-going queen. Sure, unfortunate things would happen on occasion, like my da sending me to a slumber party with a full-length floral nightgown to wear. In Summer. I was mortified, but I was able to borrow a t-shirt from the Birthday Girl and no one was the wiser. I still want to send her a thank-you card for that. This is a normal way to fix something unfortunate that happens at a party. This is also something I am no longer capable of.
I don’t know what killed my ability to socialize. Maybe it happened in junior high, when all of a sudden there were wealthy kids around and my former, poorer classmates and I learned to be jealous and cruel. Maybe the years of high school theatre and the bonds I crafted with the accepted outcasts of U-High society pulled some hidden freak tendencies from the depths of my soul like so much H.P. Lovecraft. Maybe it came from reading too much H.P. Lovecraft. All I know is I arrived at college and could no longer function in large groups of people my own age.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and a side helping of mild-to-moderate agoraphobia. Unfortunately, I am an adult woman in my mid-twenties and expected to have my act together when it comes to interacting with people. As you might guess, these two things don’t really work well together.
Like most other things, when you have issues with social anxiety, you eventually learn coping mechanisms to help you to survive necessary and uncomfortable situations. Thus far, the most successful coping mechanism I have developed in this vein is my Posse of Fellow Lady Introverts. We’re like Charlie’s Angels, but with fewer sexy costumes because oh dear Lord what if people judge me for my thighs? These are the women I call when I have to go see a friend’s theatre performance but can’t convince myself that I won’t be eaten alive by the Hipster Mafia of Wicker Park. These are the women I ask to be my Plus One because there is no way on G-d’s green earth that I can go to high-school-friend’s wedding and explain to my former peers and/or their parents that I’m single, childless, living alone in a major metropolitan area, and actually okay with all of this. In short, these are my true and blesséd people.
Earlier this week, friend Lisa — one of the founders of the P.F.L.I. — accompanied me to a concert for a friend of ours from college. He’s working on getting his singer/songwriter career up and running and wanted one last show here before going coastal. The concert was lovely, the piano player was cute, and the drinks were generous. We spent the entire time having elaborate silent conversations about the girls drooling over him from the front row. Afterwards, we waited by the bar to try and catch our friend, all the while lamenting that neither of us are outgoing enough to turn around and tell the violinist who was sitting directly behind us that she was fantastic. On the drive home, we blasted Rent and The Last Five Years and belted along, breaking out the very best of our dancing-in-the-car moves. And it was awesome.
I guess this is why I’m really okay with being terrible at parties. Whenever I found myself shaking in the corners of foreign living rooms, wishing I was just home with my books, there always seemed to be that one other girl who would brave the legions of drunken revelers to sneak into my hiding spot and say, ‘What are we doing here?’ We’d huddle together against the racket of the extroverts, united by our discomfort and love of ghost hunting shows. And even though my stomach was twisted in knots, I was happy. Because I wasn’t the only one.
That, and ghost hunting shows are way better than parties anyway.