I have a touch of the social anxieties. That is a truth fact. Most people don’t know that about me because I tend to overcompensate to hide it, but it’s a truth I’m not ashamed of. Groups in general and meeting new people stresses me out in ways that it shouldn’t for a normal person. I get all twitchy and then comes the nonsensical blabberings and the nervous sweats…
…all because of you kids these days and your basic human interactions.
This is also the reason that my closest friends have all known me for 8+ years; because at this point I’m exhausted from meeting new people, so if you aren’t already grandfathered in then it becomes more difficult for me to acclimate you into my life. It’s not you, it’s me.
But I’m not hiding away in a bunker. I do occasionally put on my fancy clothes and go out amongst the real people.
But it is an awkward thing to behold. See, I am a morning person, which means that I shoot awake happy and smiley, ready to seize the f*ck out of the day! Buuut, that also means that around 8pm I’m worn out from all that day-seizing and pants-wearing. This also means that most social gatherings occur directly during my personality-collapse hours when I’m at my most useless as a person. If parties happened over brunch I would be a damn socialite!
But they don’t, so every time you see me out in the wild, this is what is going through my head:
<<< Tracy’s inner monologue at a party >>>
Okay, this is going well. I walked through the front door without incident. Congratulations: you did that like a normal human being. You’re averageness is off the CHARTS right now!
Quick, find somebody you know. You have exactly 30 seconds to lock on to a conversation already in progress before you become the awkward person standing in the corner all night. 30-29-28…
17-16-15-14… Yes, I found one of my people! Hugs exchanged and vague pleasantries achieved. This is going to be alright.
I really want something to drink, but that’s all the way across the room and I don’t want to risk finding another group. This one is so warm and cozy and I don’t have to do anything but laugh at the story already in progress.
Oh no, the story is over and the group is disbanding. So much for my comfortable laziness. Gotta find a new group.
Hmmmm, this one’s not as good but it will work. At least it’s by the drinks.
Okay, I lost focus there for a minute and stopped listening. Hang on, they’re all looking at me now. Oh no, did somebody ask me a question? Dammit, what was the question? I can’t ask them to repeat it because then they’ll know I failed at listening.
I’m just going to say ‘YES’ and hope that they didn’t ask for my firstborn child or for me to donate plasma.
Whew, I think they bought that. Quick, you need to look engaged, so ask them a question.
Me: “So what do you do at your job?”
Yup, nailed that! <self congratulatory high five> You are conversating like a champion! Wait, I forgot to listen to their answer. Oh my gosh I wasn’t listening again! Unacceptable, Combs. Way to be so busy congratulating yourself that you didn’t even manage to focus on the answer to your own frickin question.
How much time has passed? Is it time to go home? What, has it really only been 20 minutes? Blast!
Danger! New person approaching the group! And I know I met them at the last party here, but I do not remember their name! Damn it! We talked for like an hour at that party, but I do not remember this person.
Oh no, they’re getting closer and they’ve got that ‘hey friend, I’m happy to see you’ look. I don’t know their name. That is definitely going to offend them. Is it Adam? Caleb? Maybe I can just mumble something here…
Me: “Hey htkjhsddgfjkh” <cough-cough, trying to play off the mumble-mumble>
They don’t look angry. Did I really just get away with that?
New person (not named htkjhsddgfjkh): “Tracy, did you see the new Star Wars movie?”
Me: “No. I mean yes. Yes I did see it. Not no. I don’t know why I said no.”
Why do I always panic and automatically answer NO every time someone asks me a question? What the heck kind of weird tick is that? I do it all the time!!! Rather than actually letting my brain process the question I just panic and try to fill the silence. And then I have to embarassingly correct myself and I look like I just got confused by their baffling YES or NO question. I should probably get that checked out.
Aaannnndddd now my face is red because I’m embarrassed.
Well, that was awful. But I doubt anyone will ask me another direct question for a while.
Great, whats-his-face whose name I still can’t remember… Steve? … Roger? Steve Rogers?… is telling a story now. Try to stay focused and actually listen in case there is a follow up question. You can do this. Keep looking them directly in the face because that helps you stay engaged.
Huh, which eye do I look at? That’s so weird, but when you make eye contact with somebody you zero in on one of their eyes and you have to keep switching. How did I never notice that before? Have I been staring at this eye for too long? Better switch. Is this looking natural? My God, I can’t remember how to make eye contact any more!
Aaaaannnndddd, I was so busy overthinking where to look on their face that I forgot to listen to his story. Again.
Thank goodness, somebody else filled that pause. Pay attention this time. Sure, they’re talking politics, and true you would rather walk across hot coals than discuss a debate, but try to at least fake interest in their words.
Is my face conveying proper amusement? That’s the message my brain is sending, but I’m not sure it’s working. This must be what it’s like when you get botox and your face can’t convey emotions or blinking anymore. I’ve lost control and my face won’t work right. They look confused by my expression. ADJUST!
I miss Netflix. I wonder if Netflix is thinking about me right now?
Me: “Going out with people is exhausting.”
Oh, sh*t!!! Did I say that last thing out loud? That was just supposed to be internal monologue. Yup, I definitely said it out loud. Oh no, they’re all staring at me waiting for me to explain.
Me: “Um… I meant… political things and… deficit, and… mortgage?”
Nope, you can’t save this one. Just walk away. Shake the dust from your feet and never return to this conversation again. You probably don’t need to learn that guy’s name anymore because I doubt he’ll talk to you again.
New group! Third time is the charm.
Oooh, this is a serious group. They’re going to want me to talk about obscure books and fine wine. Uuuhhh, and podcasts!!!
Me: “What was that?… Oh, English. I was an English major.”
Oh great, now they’re going to talk about every book they’ve ever read, and then get that superior judgey look when I admit that I haven’t read it and- Yup, there’s the look right on cue! Why do people think that English majors have read every book, periodical, magazine, newspaper and bathroom wall that has ever been written! I don’t expect every science major to cure Lupus. Double standards.
Me: “No, I haven’t read that one either.”
How do people expect me to read all of these things AND hold down a job AND manage to sleep and feed myself AND still come out for these parties. Either let me hermit it up and read at the house all the time, or stop looking so shocked that I haven’t had time to read. You can’t have it both ways, society.
Thank goodness, here comes a new person to join our group and hopefully change the subject. Oooh, and he is pretty! That doesn’t bode well for me. Male prettiness makes me giggly and clumsy. I wonder how I will manage to make this embarrassing? Ah, I missed my lip when taking a drink and dribbled water down my chin. That is a new one.
This guy is mispronouncing “Massachusetts” and nobody is correcting him. He’s saying Mazzahusetts. Are we all just ignoring this? Really? Nobody is going to say anything? Fine, I’m going to try it too.
Me: “Oh me? I’m from Californadia.”
Pretty Mc-Can’t-Pronounce-Words: “I’m pretty sure it’s California.”
Me: “Oh sorry, I must have sounded pretty ridiculous just then.”
New girl just showed up to talk to the cute guy and gave me the stink eye. Are we fighting over this guy? When did that start? And how am I doing? Am I winning?
Nope, not winning.
All this tension is ruining the group. I need to say something amusing to keep it alive or I’m going to have to find another new group. And everyone knows the fourth group of the night is always rough. Nobody has any small talk left by then and inevitably somebody mentions NPR. Quick, say something witty or cute.
Me: “Did you know that before Charles Manson killed a bunch of people in the 60s he wrote a song for The Beach Boys!”
Wow. That was… just… awful. Did I truly say that out loud? Lord Jesus, I am Debbie Downer.
Have I forgotten how to person? Why is this conversation so difficult? I give up- I just need french fries and a nap.
There’s no way to recover from this point so I’m just going to silently back away. Maintain eye contact. Don’t say a word. Keep backing away.
Oh thank the Lord in Heaven above, there’s my friend Amanda on the couch!!! Everyone needs an Amanda.
Me: “I want to go home and stop wearing pants.”
Amanda: “You should totally do that. Bump this, and go get some ice cream on your way.”
Me: “You are perfection my friend.”
Yes, that’s pretty much how it goes each time.
Now if you would excuse me, I’m going to go lock myself in my house for a few days and watch Doctor Who while I pick apart every moment of this conversation to highlight all the embarrassing moments. If you need me I’ll be in my blanket fort.