On Social Anxiety

On Social Anxiety

Last night we came to my parents’ house in the town where Adrian and I grew up. While Matilda went to the mall with my parents, Adrian and I went out to dinner with Danielle and Casey, some friends we never get to see. Which was excellent. Danielle said they were bringing another couple and I was like, fine, I’m hungry, let’s do it.

The other couple were these two guys who amused me and also were not a couple. We were one-quarter through the dinner when this was made clear. They explained their non-gayness and we laughed about the misunderstanding and they discussed how they’d make pretty bad gay guys, being slobs and bad dressers and whatever and everything was fine. I ate steak. Adrian ordered all this whiskey that I didn’t drink but everyone else did shots and la la la.

Then Danielle suggests we go to this other bar. And Adrian’s all lit up with the glow he gets from being in a big jolly group so what am I supposed to say? No?

My principal issue with bars in the town where I grew up is having to see some stupe I went to high school with (or made out with, ugh) and then talk to them about our dumb lives.

Oh, where do you live? I live in blah. Where do you work? I work at blah doing blah. Where do you work? 

I’m a freelance writer. So sometimes I work. Sometimes I don’t. I haven’t worked much since I started graduate school. Also, it sounds lame to say I’m a writer, I think, when you don’t have a published book or whatever. I can’t get over how hoity-toity that sounds, too, when in reality it’s often not very cool. I think I would hate someone, too, if I met them and they said, Oh, yes, I’m a writer, lah-ti-dah, kiss my ring, I am very smart and fancy.

So we’re at this other bar and I’ve having trouble dealing. It’s loud and it smells bad and everywhere you look there’s a TV with ESPN on it and the whole place is full of all these dudes who are standing around in their jackets drinking and seeming desperate and I feel like, HOW ARE THEY EVER GOING TO GET LAID? THERE ARE LIKE FOUR WOMEN IN HERE. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN. GO HOME, SON, AND WATCH TV. IT’LL BE CHEAPER FOR YOU.

Which is depressing and small-hearted, but my honest opinion. Adrian thinks they’ll get laid. Says it’s a matter of lowering standards. Which is even more depressing and small-hearted.

All these jacketed dudes we don’t know start circling around our table, getting closer, talking with our companions and I just get bewildered and tense about having to meet more people and not remembering their names and because I know that I don’t need to remember them and but still must act excited to meet them when I don’t really care, because it’s a formality, we’re like dogs sniffing each others’ butts, if that, and there’s only so much interest in SportsCenter I can feign and I’m blatantly checking my phone for emails and that’s so rude and stupid but whatever.

So I just jump down from my chair and say, I’ll be right back. But I’m not right back. I rush past the bald bouncer guy and sit outside and look at my phone and read my weather app and just listen to all the relative quiet and feel relief. Then Adrian comes and brings me my coat and laughs and says that Danielle’s sorry for dragging me, because she knows how I am, and then I feel rude and ashamed and he says, Nobody cares, I get it, honey, let’s go. 

So we go, but we have to go to ANOTHER party, to see his brother and all, because his younger brother’s back in town, and he’s staying at Adrian’s parents house (his parents are not around for the holidays) and his brother’s having some friends over to catch up and would love to see us and while I like Adrian’s brother and know some of his friends, at this point, I’m like KILL ME.

I have five library books I can’t wait to crack sitting at my parents’ house, I think.
I don’t have energy to see all these people and smile at them, I think.
Nothing is sadder to me than middle-aged people getting loaded at a house party, I think.

At my in-laws’ house (where there are currently no in-laws) I say the world’s fastest hello to the brother and then run back upstairs into the bedroom we always stay in when we visit. I take off my shoes. I do a bunch of crossword puzzles. I can hear all the noise in the basement where the people are. I feel weird, being at this house where my daughter hangs out with her grandparents. But at least I’m comfortable. The bathroom doesn’t smell vomitty, like the bar. I get under the covers of the bed. There’s a feather bed. My mother-in-law’s a big believer in feather beds, because she’s Dutch; it must be a law to be a featherbed proponent if you’re European or whatever. It’s divinely comfortable. I could fall asleep.

I’m reading Isabel Allende’s new memoir (my mother-in-law always has the best books lying about) when I’m found out and have to be dragged out of my safe nest and into hugs and hi, how are you, good to see you and whatever. It’s almost midnight. Adrian’s done gadding about and he’s all giddy and lovey and I like you, honey and though he’s ready to leave, I’m feeling gruff and tired and annoyed. I don’t like drunk affection. Or maybe I do, but not at this point.

This story ends with me feeling a bit silly and a lot ashamed of myself the next morning. I feel retroactively dumb and ill-mannered. But I can’t imagine being any other way. I wonder if that’s what all crazy people think, though.

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