I’m sure this will come as a complete surprise to most of you who read this blog on a regular basis, but I have a tendency to freak out about things I shouldn’t, from time to time. I worry about being in uncomfortable situations and my default reaction is to avoid them as best I can, often by ignoring opportunities or declining invitations I should accept. I usually feel like an outsider in social situations and I fret about not being accepted or feeling like I don’t belong.
Frequently, I am proved to be concerned for no reason. My panic is groundless and I leave the situation at the end of the event having faired just fine and glad I took the chance. More often than not, in fact, I have a good time and enjoy the company I kept.
You would think that given this “mountain of evidence”, I would stop worrying and start enjoying myself. You would be wrong…
I moved to California in early 1998 after having received an invitation to stay with my best friend from high school… and his wife… and his 18 month old daughter… and his mother-in-law… who ran a day care out of their home, until I was able to get a job and find a place to live on my own. Not long after moving in with this friend and his family, he and his wife took me to a party that was being hosted by friends from their church. It was sort of a 20 something married’s Sunday School class type of gathering. Shawn, my friend, and his wife, lead me into the house where we were greeted by the hostess. They introduced us and then they walked away. I didn’t see or speak to them again for the rest of the evening until they told me it was time to go.
I had only been in town for a few weeks and had just experienced two of the most psychologically traumatic events in life; loss/change of employment and relocation. The fact is, I was in the beginning stages of my first deep depression and I’ve no doubt that I was wearing my misery on my sleeve. Certainly, there are things I could have done to handle the situation differently and make myself more approachable. There’s no question about that. But the fact remains, I was a stranger in a house full of people who all knew each other. I believe, and will believe till the day I die, that it was the responsibility of the people at that part to approach me and to include me in their conversations and activities. Not to wait until I approached them.
This experience was twelve years ago. It took place in another town many miles away. I’m not friends with Shawn and his wife people any longer. I’m talking about ancient history and yet? I’m tearing up, just a little bit, telling this story.
Yes, I have a “mountain of evidence” to support the idea that I get by just fine in social situations and yet, every time an opportunity presents itself, the only thing I can think of is this party twelve years ago.
So last Friday night, when John, the facilitator of the coming out support group I attend, invited me to come to his house for a “gay men’s dinner party” later renamed a soirée – which turned out to have more straight people than gay men in attendance – I was, of course, terrified at the prospect and part of me really wanted to decline and hide away at home in my recliner and big screen TV (is 37” considered “big screen” in this day and age?) I knew it would be in my best interest to go. I knew that I would probably have a good time once I got there. And I knew, unlike in 1998, that John would be a good host who would insure that I was included in the events of the evening. Also, I was informed by the boss of me that I was of course going to go. (I was also informed that she was the boss of me which I did not previously know, and man does that take a lot of decision making responsibilities off my shoulders. Phew!)
So, I went. And of course I had a great time, even if I was quiet—especially as compared to some of the rest of the group.
I’ve never been very good with names. I don’t know if it’s a short term memory thing, or if – as is more likely – I’m just not paying enough attention in the first place, but I frequently forget names within seconds of being told them. So when John introduced me to everyone, I did my best to remember all the names. There were five people at that moment and I remembered four of the five names, but drew a complete blank on the last name. Fortunately, a few minutes later two more people arrived and the names were listed again. I never had to ask for the lost name because it was repeated in my earshot.
The food was very good and the drinks, of which I abstained, were free flowing. The conversation was light and the barbs were aplenty. Once the drunkenness set in for some, the “I love you” was free flowing as well.
Five hours later, I was back in my car heading home content with a pleasant evening among potential new friends and ready for sleep.