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:
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”.
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.
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.