oh yes, I'm the great pretender


I wouldn't say it's a new realization of mine to say that I'm a little bit socially awkward. I eventually improve upon further acquaintance, but it takes real effort on my part to be charming. My natural inclination is to quietly observe and I have had to train myself to get out and interact. I like socializing in controlled situations, which is probably why I like to use letters as a socialization tool. I only have to worry about the impact of my words, not my state of dress, my fidgety mannerisms or my furtive glances.

keep your head

But even I get tired of socializing from behind a wall. Sometimes even I want to get out. And that's exactly what I've been up to. No more anti-social butterfly. I'm pushing my limits, I'm doing things that I might ordinarily avoid. I'm accepting that there is a modicum of discomfort involved in meeting new people. Besides I'm better equipped to deal with feeling uncomfortable these days. I've long since gotten over my irrational fear of talking to grocery store clerks and when forced I can extend this ability to make ridiculous small talk with new people I meet. But for the past few years I've been able to hold on to a bit of my snobbery. I think it's time to let go. I figure now is about as good a time as any to start socializing. New friends don't always show up on your doorstep. Sometimes you have to show up on theirs.

And this is how on Friday night I ended up a few blocks from home, playing Trivial Pursuit and cards with a group of near strangers (roundabout connection here - friends of a friend of a friend) and then going to see a reggae cover band. Those closest to me will not be surprised by my playing Trivial Pursuit (I love it and will play it to the death), nor will they be all that taken aback by my going to see a reggae band (I have the Trini connection after all), but many will be shocked that I played cards. I almost never play cards. In fact, I think the last time was back in 2005 when Wade and I made dinner for his card shark parents and I was guilted into playing (I have a feeling we played Crazy 8s or something like that). Usually when people break out the cards I abstain, stating sarcastically that playing cards is against my religion. Or rather, more specifically, that cards are the work of the devil. But the sad truth is that I get extremely nervous playing cards, particularly when games involve counting. Not really sure why, since I had a certain flair for numbers once in my life (and I'm not a complete dunce now). But even as a bright young thing my mathematical prowess caused a great deal of stress. Having to quickly process numbers reminds me of the horrors of mad minutes... the gut-wrenching suspense of flying through those rows of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division... Oh the fear of being wrong. The shame attached to it. I was a bit of a perfectionist. I needed to best my classmates. I needed to best my siblings. This is part of the reason why I avoid cards. If I don't play then I can't make mistakes and I can't lose. No wrong, no shame. But I have a new rule now. If asked, I will play. Which is what I did on Friday. It did help that I got to play Trivial Pursuit first, and although I did not win that game either, I did appear to be somewhat knowledgeable offering the correct answers for what were seemingly impossible to answer questions. Also, being among strangers, I couldn't get away with my usual refusals without appearing both snobbish and odd. And isn't my new socialization strategy about accentuating the opposite of those qualities?

I will admit that I was about to go home after we had finished playing games. Ordinarily this would have been the obvious choice for me, returning home to the comfort and and security of my computer screen. But I'm tired of being at home. And it was not as if I was venturing out totally alone.

Most people had their opportunity to get accustomed to bar life when they were young and foolish. I did not. At the time when the rest of my peers were out kicking up their heels I was going to bed - my body still adjusting to the aftermath of its anaemic episode. I would get ready to go out but I would crash by 11 o'clock. Can't really say that I missed much, but when I finally started going out to clubs I had to deal with that lack of familiarity and ease of socialization that others seemed to so easily possess. Yes, I realize that many people are using liquor as a method to lower their inhibitions, but there are still others who are able to just ease into the scene without feeling uncomfortable and out of place. And when I walked in the bar I felt both those things. But I steeled my nerves and together with my friend Alesha, we made our way through the crowd, following the heads of the two fellows who we were accompanying. We had to push our way through throngs of muscly overtanned men as well as the odd couple in the throes of very public displays of affection (one such memorable couple was leaned up against the bar and they were softly licking each others' faces. It was very gross). By the time the band started playing I had adjusted to the bar. I was committed to having a good time and part of having a good time is allowing yourself to relax enough to enjoy yourself. So I cautiously made my way out into the middle of the dance floor (awkwardly clutching my jacket which I didn't feel like checking) . At first I was too close to the speakers and anticipating leaving the bar with my hearing slightly dulled I shifted ever so slightly, centering myself and allowing for a more even distribution of sound. The band was fantastic and not at all what I was expecting. It didn't take much for me to loosen up enough to start dancing. Being in the middle of the crowd was more pleasant than I anticipated. The panel of lights shone out from behind the band and when I looked at the floor, the swaying feet and legs in front of me were back lit with alternating hues of blue and green. I longed for my camera at that moment. Some people clearly had no sense of rhythm, like the fellow in the navy blazer who was channeling Elaine Benes on the dance floor. I longed for a video camera at that moment. Some people had no sense of style, like the woman who was busting out of her dress. I long to have the memory of her bad fashion decision erased from my mind.

Overall, I'm inclined to deem this evening of socialization a success. I hope there will be more evenings like it during the rest of the summer. I really am tired of the old routine. I would like some variety.