This is a new realization that has to come to me over the past few years, and it’s hard to admit. After years and years of booze soaked nights out on the town and meeting new people, telling them how fascinating and cool they are and vice versa. "We totally have to hang out!! OH MY GOD!” and by the next time you see them sober at Target you're ducking your head or moving into an aisle pretending to be fascinated at children's car seats as if it was in fact a L.A.M.B. spring runway show.
I have taken full advantage of the "social lubricant" effect that an alcohol can provide. I have used it to the extreme and even nights I have overdosed on the confidence and gutlessness I feel and even had the courage to talk to members of the opposite sex. GASP! How do you think I got my current piece? Yes, it is quite amazing the effects alcohol can provide to those of us who have extreme cases of the social awkward factor. Without it during a new social setting I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. From the outgoing girl who has no problem going up to people and introducing herself, to the nail biting wallflower in the corner looking at my phone and asking “Is it me, or is it really hot in here?”
But I haven't always used alcohol, I many a times braved the world without the "social lubricant" I had been so use to, and it has always come to half assed small talks with awkward silences, usually with one of us staring at a corner in the room. Sometime the awkward tension was bad I would secretly wish at dinner parties someone would rip a loud fart or a make a horribly offensive joke. Or the girl next to me would take a PBR out of their purse, open it up right there, and take a long swig and belch. Then everyone would start laughing hysterically, and I could finally breathe that long sigh of relief that had been stuck in my chest all night.
I had always been kind of a loner in some aspects. I'd don't mind spending time by myself and at times I actually prefer it.
When a friend invited me to a dinner with some of her friends who I didn't know, I reluctantly agreed. I like her enough, she was cool, but I knew what was ahead of me. I was getting over the effects of a bad, drawn out cold, and alcohol combined prescription medication has been a lesson that I have learned the hard way. They don't play nice together. I hurried to get dressed after work and met them at the Thai Fusion restaurant. After the introductions were made, whose names I still don't remember (I am horrible with names, please don't take it personally), I found myself sitting at the opposite end of the table from my friend. Bitch, I thought. I actually did want to catch up with her, but I guess now was not the time.
My palms started to sweat as I silently looked over the menu. The raven-haired girl next to me asked me politely if I was from here. I didn't hear her at first, until she tapped me on the shoulder and repeated herself. I could feel my face flush, "Oh yes, I wasn't born here but yeah, I ummm, I have lived for like ummm 6 years maybe on and off...." I quickly looked back down at the menu and then totally forgot my manners. "You? sorry.. you live around here?" I choked back on my water.
The banter of small talk was over as it soon as it began. I didn't know what else to say. I tried to make a joke which was meant with nod and lip clenched smile, hey I thought it was funny. We both quickly came to the realization that we had nothing in common.
15 minutes later a small older man, slid a chair between the raven-haired girl and me. I want to say his name was Steven. He smiled, we introduced ourselves, a little small talk occurred, and then just as quickly as it began he excused himself from our awkward convo as he looked over the menu.
The tall guy with small glasses sitting next to me started with the same question. "Are you from around here?" Fuck, here we go again, I thought to myself. "Yes, yes.. I am, umm you?" he smiled "Originally yes, well I went to college around here, and grew up in Connecticut and now live in Brooklyn." he empathized the word BROOK-LYN to make sure I heard him.
I feigned a smile. "Oh cool. Brooklyn is nice I hear... I mean I haven't been there in, fuck, years? Last time I went to the city I actually stayed in the projects in Bronx - long story, so I didn't really get to see Brooklyn, but I hear it’s cool." I looked again at my menu again trying to concentrate on what the fuck I was going to eat. Did I have pit stains?
Small glasses guy wouldn't shut the fuck up. He went on and on about his art consultation company, how successful he was, his boyfriend was. "So you found a good place to live I take it." I said with fake enthusiasm. The next 10 minutes consisted with me nodding, and repeating, "That's so cool". Sucking in air and I tried to contain myself from blurting out "OK let's just stop this shit right now. I don't give a flying fuck what you do; you don't give a fuck what I do. I don't feel like talking about menial shit at the moment, so let's call a truce and eat. Fuck" Right at the moment I wished we could just exchange index cards which would include, name, age (optional), city, occupation, birth city, favorite band/movie, additional comments and just pass them around. It would all save us so much trouble.
The raven-haired maven (a little nickname I decided to give her cause I couldn't remember her name for the life of me) and bald guy were now involved in a deep, serious conversation. 5 minutes later, they were taking photos that would most surely go on one of their Instagram accounts titled "Just met the coolest person ever!"
I decided to try and be a normal human being reach out to the blond girl with dreads and introduce myself. She seemed friendly enough despite my stuttering, and we exchanged the normal pleasantries. Turns out she is a yoga instructor to which raven hair girl interrupted me and announced how OBSESSED, I mean OBSESSED she was with yoga, and boom. I again was sitting there nodding like I knew what they were talking about, and restlessly waiting for my California roll to arrive.
There was the girl with the cool jewelry who kind of frowned when I asked her if she made it and if she did, did she have an Etsy shop? That was the end of that.
As the evening carried on I started to doubt myself, and my social capabilities. Why couldn't I have an instant connection with these strangers?
Am I even capable of having a normal conversation? I just spent 1 hour talking about anal sex with my best friend earlier that day. Can I have a conversation without making a sexual innuendo or talking about bodily functions? Can I go without an hour without saying the word "fuck"?
Are these people just not my cup of tea or am I socially awkward? Maybe it’s both. Truth is I am reserved, shy, and it does take me awhile to get to know people and open up. And that's OK. I'm just not good at small talk or am I the exuberant talker. Not everyone is little miss chatty Cathy right off the bat. There are people like us who prefer to stay in the background and scope out the scene like Dalton in Road House. Or maybe I have relied too much on alcohol to help me through the horrors of social small talk.
I did my best, but at the end of the dinner I was fucking exhausted. Fuck it... I thought.
Sure, it wasn't that bad after all. I mean it could have been a Larry David episode. I didn’t say anything offensive, which has happened many a times.
As I was about to leave when my phone rang, Sister Christian - Night Ranger echoed throughout the restaurant, as heads turned I picked it up and silenced it. 2 seconds later a guy walked over to me who was sitting on the opposite end of the table from me. "Dude, is that you're ringtone?" I nodded biting my lip. "Dude, that's fucking awesome! You have to tell me where you got that!" Then maybe I realized maybe I wasn't the queen of instant social connections, or even the princess for that matter, but also maybe I was just talking with the wrong people.