Ain’t It a Laugh? Ain’t It a Treat?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHASaveMe.

Seriously. If you need a babysitter tonight, hit me up. Sudden emergency? Call me. Happen to have a vial of smallpox you need to get rid of? Come on over, and we’ll put it in my coffee. For you, I will be Patient Zero, because I’m just a giver like that. I will come help you push your car. I will come give you a kidney. I will help you move to Tibet.

I just need you to need me before 7:00 tonight.

Here’s the deal: Moon Man started a new job this year, and tonight is their annual Swanky Office Christmas Party. It’s “cocktail attire”, and the invitation says things about wine and hors d’oeuvres and dinner, and it’s at a fancy-dancy hotel where famous people stay when they come to town, and and and…

Here, I’ll draw a circle around all the swanky dinner parties I’ve attended in cocktail attire at fancy-dancy hotels:

0

Well, wouldja lookit that: it’s a zero.

And I am freaking all the way out.

Look, I know I’m a nice person, and you know I’m a nice person, and we all know I’m clever and entertaining and funny and thoughtful and all those things–at least, people tell me that I’m all those things, and when I’m feeling generous with myself, I choose to believe them. But here’s my dirty little secret: I am ZOMG so unbelievably bad at meeting people in social situations. Like, impressively bad. Like, I could write a book about how not to do this.

And lest you think I’m being a touch melodramatic, I offer this proof: A couple of years ago, a meme went around Facebook. You were supposed to pick a number and inbox it to your friend; then that friend would address you by number in a status post about you, something like “Dear #42, I’ll never forget meeting you for the first time in that class we both hated in college. You still owe me for the answer to question 15 on the final, btw. Ha! I joke. But you made that semester tolerable, and we’ve been friends ever since. Love ya!”. For kicks and grins, I picked a number and sent it to several friends, so they could say nice things about me in a publicly private sort of way, and I sat back and watched as the comments came in.

And here’s the punchline: the vast–vast–majority of them started with “I was really, really unsure about you when we first met at [that party / that friend’s house / that event], and I didn’t think I was going to like you at all”.

Ba-dunt-tschh!

It’s all a function of my introversion and social anxiety and trust issues and my absolute conviction that I do not “fit in” with polite society, and I get that–I tend to come off as aloof and guarded, and am spectacularly bad at small talk (Moon Man will argue that point, because he thinks I’m quite good at it, but what he’s referring to is my ability to chat trivially with friends while I’m referring to my inability to make polite noises at strangers). More often than not, my defense mechanism involves sitting very still in a corner of the room, trying to make myself as small as possible (no mean feat, given my body size), and smiling vaguely at everyone who crosses my path so that I’ll at least look harmless.

Net result: people don’t much like me when they first meet me, at least if we meet in a highly social situation, especially if it’s a situation where everybody knows everybody else and I’m the odd duck out.

Now, granted, all the Facebook statuses about me ended with things like “…but you grew on me and now I love you to little tiny pieces”, but still. And y’know, I can’t even be offended by it all, because it’s just so true: I am really, really, really uncomfortable in social situations, at least the ones where I don’t know anybody. Once I’ve learned the “rules” of a group, and have sorted out the patterns of expected behavior, I’m good to go…but for some perspective, it’s taken me the better part of three years, with parties and get-togethers and events sprinkled throughout, to finally get to the point where I’m comfortable–and in some cases, enthusiastic about–spending time voluntarily with the folks I now consider my friends.

Three. Years.

So you can imagine how I’m a little stressed out about tonight’s Swanky Shindig: I’ve never been to an event like this before, so I don’t even know how these things are supposed to go generally; I have no idea what the social conventions are among this group of people particularly; and I’ve only met a handful of ’em in the first place, and most of those were ten-second introductions at a barbecue six months ago, so I’m going to be surrounded by strangers who know each other. And remember, even the people who like me tell me that I’m a tough nut to crack, and that their first impressions of me were…let’s go with “unfavorable”.

So I think I’m going to approach this like I approach most Big Scary Things: I’m going to think of myself as an Ambassador, and go for the benefit of anyone else who is spending today freaking out, as a show of solidarity and support. When we joined a gym a couple of years ago, I went in with the attitude that yes, I would probably be the biggest person there, but that might help inspire other FatChicks to give it a go, and we could all be FatChick friends and work out together (for the record, this failed miserably, but it was a valiant effort); similarly, I reckon being the Vaguely Smiling Terrified Person in the Corner might make other VSTPCs more comfortable, and maybe we can all huddle together and try to figure out what you’re supposed to do with your drink glass when you’re done with it (seriously–do you, like, leave it somewhere? Do you just carry it around all night? There should really be a posted set of rules).

…Unless I get called away to handle an emergency, that is, or jump-start someone’s car, or watch someone’s kids, or help a bride put together her wedding invitations, or just about anything else.

Seriously. I’m there for you.

All of you.

Anytime.

Just call.

(help)

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10 Comments

Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

10 responses to “Ain’t It a Laugh? Ain’t It a Treat?

  1. Just getting to this one, but amazed that in two days you did not one, not two, but three very social occasions in two days! I love you my friend!

    • I love you too! (and yeah, I’m feelin’ pretty cute about my Suddenly Social Self right now too, though I’ll admit that I’m ready for a nice quiet, boring day today. lol)

  2. Oh Darling, the secret about social gatherings is that even extroverts can be terrified. Really, I’m not kidding. We just have different mechanisms for coping and often don’t look terrified to the introverts because we’re all talking an jockey-ing for attention which creates chaos but that’s to be expected in a social gathering 🙂

    Open ended questions are perfect for encouraging small talk and really, you only have to talk to one person at a time, it’s not like you have to hold court!

    Food/drink: keep your glass full of water (after you’ve had the drink(s) you want. Then you’ll always have something to sip on instead of an empty glass. A plate of nibblies is a great idea only if it’s not sloppy finger food. If it’s a dinner thing, skip everything except the most amazing appetizer and just wait for dinner.

    Arrival time: Do not let Nate be the first one there! Arrive about 15-20 minutes before dinner if it’s a sit down affair. Then you only have a few minutes to wander before sitting with whoever you’re stuck with and you can muddle through dinner conversation (hell, we did that and it went beautifully!)

    Any other questions or need a pep talk, call me!!

    • Well, he has to get home from work and change into his Fancy Duds, so unless he has a time machine, it’s gonna be pretty much impossible for us to be the first to arrive. That’s the good news. 😀 The bad news is that I have no idea what time dinner will actually be served, so I reckon we’ll just show up whenever we get there and hope for the best.

      One of my biggest challenges with events like this is translating the information I have in my brain to a belief in my heart. Case in point: Dinner with you and T the other night–I know in my head that it’s not at all disruptive to ask for a refill on water, especially when the Most Attentive Waitress of All Time keeps stopping by every 30 seconds to ask if we need anything, but that information never quite translated to my believing that I wouldn’t break the flow of the conversation if I interjected to ask her for a refill. Net result: I was totally parched by the time I got home and ended up drinking, like, two giant glasses of water the second I walked in the door. Ludicrous? Yes. True nonetheless? Also yes.

      So it’s just a matter, really, of taking the things I know academically to be true, and pushing myself to behave in a way that aligns with those. As long as I can keep myself from getting totally frozen by my own darned self, I should be fine.

      Thanks for being so supportive, StarTheBeautiful. Sometimes I “muddle through” these things by playing “What Would Star Do?” in my head. Weird but true. 😉 Love you!

      • I love you too, bunches and bunches!
        Try to breathe without gasping for air and remember how my eyes twinkle when I look at you – just a reflection of your heart 🙂

  3. Sarah

    Those thoughts are deadly. Okay, here’s my advice for small talk. Remember that most folks want to talk about themselves. So all you have to do is ask a few questions. Here are some examples . . .

    Where are you from?
    Where did you go to school?
    Pretty necklace! Where did you get it?
    Isn’t that tree/wreath/light display pretty?
    What’s your favorite holiday candy?
    Do you have kids? How old are they?
    I have nieces/nephews about that age.

    These are common convo areas that most folks want to talk about. The hard thing for me is when there is already a circle of people and then it’s hard to get in. You can do this. And for the record, I remember meeting you in middle school and I don’t recall you being aloof or strange. Of course, that was a while ago.

    • RIGHT!! Open-ended questions!! Sarah, you are a genius and I love you to little tiny pieces. Crumbs, really. Molecules.

      I always seem to forget that the tactics that work on kids also work well on adults, because at the core of it, we’re all just really tall kids in grownup clothing. And I’m totally cool with talking with kids. Easy-peasy.

      You = my new favorite EVAR. Remind me that I owe you a pony. 🙂

      • Sarah

        I’m glad things went well. File it away so you can remember it for the next time the whatifs crawl inside your ear. Mine get pretty loud sometimes, too. I’ll be stopping by for my pony next time I’m in KS.

      • That’s pretty much exactly my sneaky ulterior motive for writing this blog: so that when the Whatifs (I’m stealing that term) set up camp inside my brain, I can go back and have written proof that I’ve already climbed a particular mountain and so have no need to climb it again.

        Also: Do *not* tempt me about the pony. There’s a miniature horse farm just up the road from us, and it already takes every ounce of my willpower not to stop there every time we drive past. So give me any excuse at all, and just watch how quickly you find yourself with a miniature horse and every single accessory I can find. lol

  4. …of course, then I remembered that I live in Kansas, where it is still illegal for same-sex couples to marry and where there is no small risk for same-sex couples to show up to fancy shindigs because they can’t really predict whether they’ll be welcomed or met with revulsion, and suddenly I decided to get a little perspective and quit my grousing. Big picture, Mama BW, big picture. Sheesh.

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