Last weekend I went to a party and I had a couple of drinks but not that many and I decided to try and be brave and talk to people I didn’t know. Unless I’m blackout drunk I’m not very good at meeting new people. And even then I’m still pretty terrible at it. But my New Year’s resolution was to be a bit less nervous and to try and relax and not be afraid of being creative, and also to meet new people. I had been gradually testing my nerve at parties where I sort of knew people the last few weeks and it was going okay. Contrary to what I always thought nothing terrible had happened and I realised I was making myself anxious about social situations for no real reason.
So this night, at the party, I had a few rotten apple ciders and thought it might be a good chance to take things up a communal notch. I walked over to a table of people where there was one spare chair and asked the girl sitting next to it if anyone was sitting there. She looked at me but didn’t say anything so I figured maybe I would just sit down and listen to the conversation for a while and nod and smile congenially, and that would be a good enough start. I went to sit down but just as I reached the seat I noticed the legs of the plastic chair starting to buckle and dread spread from the bottom of my feet to the top of my throat as I struggled to keep my balance.
‘Uuhhh, I wouldn’t sit there.” Someone said across the table. “That chair’s broken.”
No one said anything else and everyone went quiet and I tried to perch halfway up and halfway down in an awkward, self-made squatting chair position, saying something odd about how it “wasn’t that bad.” Everyone looked at me and after a few seconds my thighs started to give out so I stood up and held my drink to my chest and hoped someone might offer me a seat that wasn’t broken. But they didn’t.
I stood there a full ten seconds or so in silence with everyone looking at me before I turned and walked away without saying anything. As I left I heard someone say, “I guess we we’re too weird for her.”
After I walked away I knew exactly what I wanted to say. In a real sarcastic tone, flapping my hands around my face, I should have said, ‘Yeeaahh man, you’re reeeaal weird, I just had to get out of there before your kooky sense of humour warped my unexposed brain, and the waves of radiation emanating from your eccentric awesomeness melted my face right off my skull.’ But I didn’t say anything and really she was just a girl who hadn’t had to go out of her comfort zone before. One who didn’t want to give someone new a chance because if they were cool enough to be her friend she would have already known about them.
I went upstairs and finished my drink and then opened another one and took it outside to a park bench that overlooked a bike path at the quiet end of the cul-de-sac. I drank the cider and breathed deeply and remembered what it felt like to be in high school. Eventually I collected myself and went back to the house and snuck into one of the bedrooms and didn’t leave it again for the rest of the night except to go to the bathroom.
There isn’t really any purpose in telling this. Except maybe if somebody who is equally as socially self-aware gets to read it they will be able to diagnose one of their own and share a brief moment of recognition. I’m sure the people at the table weren’t trying to be rude. I probably came across as a bit strange, quietly wandering over to a group of people I didn’t know and lurking on the peripheries before sitting in a broken chair and walking away without saying anything.
But still, it takes some self-convincing to believe you have a right to fill up social space after a moment like that.