I can count the number of times I’ve been out as in ‘out’ socially. The number of times I’ve wanted to go out in the last – what, three years?- on one hand.
It’s not that I’m entirely averse to going out, it’s just that I feel uncomfortable a lot of the time. Especially if I’m around people I’m not entirely comfortable with. It doesn’t even need to be that I don’t know them very well.
The problem with me is that I struggle in social situations, mostly because I’m not very good at being- well not fake but- familiar? Mellow? (I’m reaching for a word and I’m not sure what it is). What I mean is that whilst most people can stand to be in the presence of someone who annoys them for more than five minutes, I just can’t. Whilst most people can shut out the slew of bullshit that just drops from certain peoples mouths, I can’t. I can’t smile and ignore it, I can’t be in the presence of the fakers and the arse-lickers and the bullshitters of the world for more than ten minutes without wanting to tear my hair out.
And we all know that there will be at least two or three of these people if not more to every group of ten people.
Most people, I’ve found, can tolerate these people. Can tolerate friends and acquaintances like this. They can smile and nod and zone out as that person bullshits their way through the evening. Listing off achievements and knowledge that just isn’t true. They can kiss the cheeks of enemies who lean in first. They can chit chat to the people who see themselves as above the rest of us.
I just can’t.
I can be civil to a point but that mostly means I won’t rip your head off the first whiff of bullshit I get. (Though when I’ve had a drink if you’re bullshitting about your achievements or how amazing you are I’ll most likely be the dickhead stood coughing *bullshit* loudly.) If we don’t talk or like each other, again I will be civil but that just means I’m trying to not make it uncomfortable for other people in the room. I’m not going to become best buddies with you and entertain the notion just for an evening.
Not only that but I struggle with social interaction a lot more than people might believe. I never know what to ask, I never know where to go if a conversation stops. Oh I can wax lyrical about film and tv, about books and about Harry Potter. I feel like my ability to engage with people rests solely on those things and beyond that I don’t know what to talk about.
Worse than that though is the fact that if I’m not interested, I just can’t force myself to be. I can’t even pretend to be. All that runs through my head is I really don’t care. Followed by what the hell are they even saying? When did I lose track of this conversation. Shit!
It’s like my brain is just not socially wired.
I like my own space too. I don’t like to be crowded. I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying the cinema over a night out. In enjoying sitting at home writing/reading/watching something over going out with others.
So yes, I can count the number of times I’ve been out in the past two years on one hand.
However, this past month or so I’ve been out more than once. Not only that but I’ve enjoyed myself. Which is a shock in itself. (Not counting my Cinema/Food dates with my friend Kim in these because…. well I’m comfortable with her and I know what she likes.)
The first time I went out was on payday. I went to the pub after work.
I was so apprehensive about it. I was getting worked up in the day because all I had visions of was me sat with the others in silence and crickets playing in the background. Of course the voices and the images start. They always do when I’m about to do something I might enjoy.
There only inviting you because they feel sorry for you. You’re not interesting enough for them. You’ll be a third wheel. You should just go home. You’re going to make a fool out of yourself. The images consist of everything from me getting sick from food, me drinking too much, me being left alone, me turning up and there being no one there, me being stood up.
The logical part of me knows that all this bullshit is not true, but, as any of you who have this little problem will know, that’s not enough to stop the avalanche. Once it starts it doesn’t stop, it just gets bigger, it grows more elaborate and the ensuing scenarios that could possibly, but-probably-never-will, happen become more imaginative and extraordinary. It’s a hard fight to try and shake them off, even just a little. (because they’re never really gone.)
I went though, and I was proud of myself for doing so. I went and for the most part I had an awesome time. Even the mistake of heading into town at the end of the night didn’t taint the good time I’d had earlier, which was surprising.
The second time was my partner (he’s been my boyfriend too long for me to refer to him as that anymore), sister’s wedding.
The voices came back again. This time they were slightly different. You’re going to make a fool of yourself, you’ll make some social faux pas, they’ll be some sort of audience participation and you’ll be called up, you’ll need to do formal photos and you’ll look terrible. What are you going to say to people? You have nothing to say. People won’t like you. There’ll be so many people you don’t know there. People you don’t but should know.
Some of these probably just sound like observations, but in my head they come from twisted grotesque carnival creature, who snarls them. The implication that something terrible is about to happen, something to do with those thoughts. There’s a slew of images again too.
I went to that too, and though I spent some time fretting, worrying and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Eventually it settled and passed.
I’ve also booked to go to London with a friend, we’re going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and although at the time of booking I was apprehensive. Now I find myself nothing but excited and I like it.
I love it.
Maybe I’ll end up a social butterfly after all.