“I am not a jerk. I am an introvert and I say fuck a lot.” ~Charles Bukowski
I don’t get invited to a lot of parties.
This is not surprising, because I don’t have a lot of friends.
This is not surprising, because I’m the human equivalent of a turd in a punch bowl.
I don’t necessarily mean to be, but I’m a definite introvert trying to force myself to function like a “normal” person, in a world that is noisy and won’t shut up. A bi-product of which, is a somewhat bizarre form of what I suppose could be called, social anxiety. Or, a bad case of chronic, verbal diarrhea.
When I get blindsided by conversation, you know, normal, friendly small talk, I tend to contribute something like, “Hey, did you know that humans shed forty pounds of skin in their lifetime?” just as you’re about to sprinkle some parmesan cheese onto what used to be your favorite dish.
I once said, ” Well, I hate the Yankee’s” during a professional networking event, in New York, with a bunch of Yankee fans, at YANKEE F*CKING STADIUM, in response to the question, “Do you like baseball?”
And you know what? I don’t even really hate the Yankee’s.
I’m sure it would be quite nice to be a social butterfly, instead of a wall flower; to be the kind of person who oozes charisma and charm, instead of oozing verbal diarrhea.
But I wouldn’t know.
I’m attending a wedding at the end of the month and the last time I saw many of the people who will be in attendance, I filled an awkward moment of silence with the following:
“Hey, did you guys know the average fast food eater consumes like 12 pubic hairs a year?”
I don’t know why that was necessary. I have no words….also, it was me who caused the awkward moment of silence.
The thing is, when left to my own devices, I’m just perfectly happy being alone.
It’s not because I’m sad, or depressed, or need to be pried from my shell. I’m not shy, or lacking in self-confidence.
And it’s not that I don’t like people. I think people are fascinating, especially from a distance, when they don’t know I’m watching them.
It’s the socializing I don’t love; the small talk and the pressure to contribute to a conversation. I don’t like the pauses, with expectation, waiting for me to share my thoughts, which usually consist of something like, “Every year, 40,000 people are injured by a toilet in the United States.” Except no one is ever talking about toilets.
I am capable of having regular, deep conversations with my small circle of close friends and family, but take me to any sort of outing where there are large groups of people and shit gets weird, real fast.
When I manage to find a quiet, dark corner where I can lurk in the shadows and just observe and eavesdrop, there is always some do-gooder who tracks me down with a “Why are you over here all by yourself? Come join us!”
And I think, “Damn-it, Susan, you’re ruining everything!”
For a long time, I was hard on myself for my shortcomings as a socialite. It bothered me that nearly everyone else I knew gracefully made their way through parties, networking events, conferences, etc., while I spent my time rehearsing a series of basic social niceties, only to then spend
days months obsessing over all the ways in which I still ended up accidentally telling someone her purse was ugly and then insulting her entire family for good measure.
But, I’m pushing forty now and honestly, I don’t care anymore.
This is who I am.
My idea of excellent of customer service is to be completely ignored, until I ask for something….which I will never do. The other day, I discovered that I can look up a specific product on Home Depot’s website, while in the store, and it will tell me the items exact aisle and bay number, thus forever sparing me an awkward encounter with a store associate. I am now a lifelong customer of Home Depot….so long as I can continue to get a decent cell signal in their stores.
I have had the same cell phone provider for eighteen years. Because even if I wanted to break up with them, I don’t want to have to actually initiate the conversation.
But you know what? Loyalty does it have its rewards, even if it’s unintended loyalty….because I have a seriously good cell phone plan that is so good, they don’t offer it anymore. I’ve been grandfathered into it with like two other people, because….eighteen years.
I’m that friend who will never answer the phone when you call, but will immediately respond with a text and then tell you I’m somewhere with shitty cellular service. And of course you’ll know I’m lying, but you know me, so you’ll let it go.
Actually, if we’re really friends, you’ll never call to begin with, unless it’s a true emergency. Like, you need help burying a body, or something.
Also, if you invite me to your wedding and I look thoroughly confused in every photograph, you’ll know it’s because I’m trying to work out exactly why I needed to include the world vulva, in a conversation with your new mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.
I know, I know….I sound like a real pain in the ass. Truly, most of the time, I feel like I’m not worth the effort, but believe it or not, I’m a good friend when it matters most. *See body comment above.*
I’ll just never be the life of the party. And I don’t want to be.
When life requires me to people, I will always be that person trying desperately to blend into the wallpaper. Literally. I call ahead so I can match my outfits to the décor.
I now have a six-year-old son, who is a first grader, which adds a layer of challenge to my hermit-like aspirations. He wants to socialize, which means that, by extension, I need to socialize; with other parents at playdates and birthday parties and school events and so on. And of course, I do these things for him.
But there is also a part of him that is just like me. He’s dreamy and imaginative and for as long as he’s been able to string a sentence together, he’s declared that he wants to be a writer.
At six, he’s written dozens of very short stories in a little notebook he keeps. Sometimes the stories have no real beginning, or ending. Just a thought he worked out and put to paper with an illustration.
Sometimes, when I pick him up from school and I ask him abut his day, he’ll tell me it was good, but he played by himself. And I’ll ask, “How come? Is everything OK?”
“Of course, Mommy,” he’ll say. “I just needed some alone time.”
And I get it. So we’ll drive home in a comfortable silence. Both of us, a little lost in ourselves for a bit.