polyglot mute

(I never did finish this one, but I figured I might as well go ahead and publish it anyway.)

Am I the only person who feels loneliest when surrounded by other people?

Today I went with Hans, Maureen and Mercer to a theme event in my dorm. It was fun for a while, batting balloons around and waiting to see what getups everyone had come up with, but when the dancing and socializing started in earnest I sort of melted off to the sidelines. I think we stayed maybe an hour or so before getting bored and leaving.

I can't dance. Period. I did ballet, jazz and tap when (and only when) I was in my single-digit age range, and there was an ill-fated period in my teens where my mom made me take ballroom dancing lessons. In any case, I've tried, and I just inherently suck at it. There is a certain kinesthetic sense of where my body is in space that I lack (which is also why I suck at sports). So I can't exactly walk up to anyone I fancy and ask them to dance unless I want to make a total fool of myself.

I also can't socialize. I spent most of my childhood with books instead of other children. I make friends by accident; my friends tend to be more extroverted and outgoing because someone who isn't usually doesn't bother to try to draw me out of my shell. In stark defiance of my Southern lady upbringing, I managed to skip learning the trick of small talk, and as a result, I find it next to impossible to strike up conversation with someone I don't already know.

When it comes to social situations, for all my fluency in writing and journaling, absurdly extensive vocabulary and Nazi-like command of grammar, I can't talk worth a damn.

Mostly, going to the party reminded me why I never go to parties: because parties are depressing.


thus saith Liadan at 3:07 AM


Blogger marauder saith at 11/01/2005 12:57 AM...  

It's not just you. Once I know someone a little, it's easier for me to sink into conversation, but I outright suck at social situations where I'm dropped into a group of people I don't know. Weddings are a nightmare if I'm not seated with people I actually know. I honestly don't know how I survived the first several months of being a missionary. (Oh wait, yes I do. I read unabridged copies of "The Brothers Karamazov," "Les Misérables," "The Mists of Avalon," "The Once and Future King" and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare." And as Dave Barry used to say, I'm not making that up.)

We had two birthday parties this past weekend. I was more than happy to put the finishing touches on the cake when our guests arrived, and then run out for fifteen minutes to get the pizza. If I could do the right thing as a father and be far, far away from the birthday party, on the computer or reading a book, I guarantee I would do it.

It's the curse of being an introvert: We're interesting people and we usually know an awful lot of interesting stuff, but most people never discover it because we're so slow to open up.

Blogger Fortunato saith at 11/11/2005 4:33 PM...  

I would simply ditto everything you both said. Isn’t it good to know that you’re not alone in your isolation? :)

Small talk is an acquired skill for some introverts, especially the more conceptual ones. When I was younger, it held no interest for me and I wanted to leap right into the “important philosophical themes” of life; in fact, I thought small talk shallow… and in many ways, for many people at that age, it was.

Now I can see value in it, as simply part of the mundane way that we develop relationships so that we can get to what I consider “the meat.” And a lot of people actually live in the details that I don’t find interesting, so it’s part of the compromise of relationship that I sometimes have to go places I don’t much enjoy.

Generally, though, I find it easier in a gathering to find small tasks for myself, to make myself look busy, so that I don’t have to suffer the awkwardness of trying to make conversation or simply standing there alone and looking rather abandoned.

(Although a lot of that abandonment is simply in my head – many people are more aware of my reaction to my supposed awkwardness and otherwise would not even think twice if I just went ahead and fumbled my way through an exchange with them. I end up drawing attention to myself because I’m focusing on how uncomfortable I feel.)

[By the way, Jocko, you're busted. Your references to Karamazov, Shakespeare, Dave Barry, and Les Miserables in the same sentence, almost, have given you away...]

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