Monday, January 24, 2011

Shyness, meeting new people, making friends

The first day of kindergarten I met more children then I had ever seen in my life. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the school taught more than two students. Coming from a house where I was routinely chastised for “acting like a clown” or laughing too loudly, I was overwhelmed by the incessant jubilant chatter of rambunctious kids.

The only person I had connected with up until then had been my little brother and I was excited and terrified to meet new people. During recess I hovered anxiously, watching children play. It was at five years old that I developed the impression that interaction with other humans was a spectator sport. They could have sold me popcorn, a soda, and a program for life so that I could have been more comfortable watching from the sidelines of relationships.

Inexplicably, I never allowed myself to just be content on the outskirts. It is a painful juxtaposition: desiring to connect with others and absolve my loneliness mixed simultaneously with an overwhelming fear and discomfort of being around other people. I am so jealous of people with friendships and close relationships and I desperately wish I could create that kind of closeness with someone. But at the same time, I revel in being alone and I feel exhausted being around people too long. I want to make friends but I hate meeting people. It’s probably a good thing I can’t make friends come to think of it, because what would I do with them if I could? Hey, wanna come over and sit quietly on our computers? Because that’s the only thing I like doing. Yay I have a relationship! Now can we enjoy some alone time? Because I'm glad we're friends but I can't stand being around people.

This girl Kasia was one of the prettiest most outgoing children. I admired the way she talked to the other kids and laughed (not annoyingly and squawking like me) and I picked her as my potential future friend. I followed her around on the recess playground, hiding behind various gym equipment. I stalked her like a cat stalking it's prey, if the cat was socially retarded and its prey thought it was an idiot. When she turned around I stood completely still and shut my eyes so she wouldn’t see me, because that's how I thought invisibility worked.

I triumphantly cornered her in a playhouse and followed her inside muttering manically and gleefully: “good she went into the playhouse alone! now I've got her!” Which is something a child molester would say, and also incorrect. Because a playground is not like a pregnancy, you can't trap someone into being in a relationship.

“What are you doing?” Kasia said.

I hadn't planned this far in advance. I stood there, frozen in the playhouse, grinning at her hysterically.

“What do you want?” the little girl sounded scared now.

I began giggling softly and squeakily and shaking in anxiety. I trembled violently and realized that socially anxiety is the narcissistic hipster boy of emotions because whenever it's inside me I want to throw up. I heaved a little and Kasia ran out of the playhouse.

Due to that moment and enduring a plethora of criticism on my personality traits, throughout my life I struggled with trying to make friends. I was (am) especially intimidated by outgoing, assertive, aggressive girls who represent everything I wanted to be that remained unobtainable and beautiful. There have been a few girls in my life who I idolized and I wanted to be them and simultaneously I wanted them to love me and acknowledge my existence. I drowned in the shadows, painfully wishing I could have the spotlight yet hating it whenever I got it.

I have spent countless dollars on books with titles like "Learn how to talk to people!" And the first sentence is never "stop hiding in the library and go out and talk to real people." One time I was on a bus and this guy came and set next to me and was like "Hey, how are you," and I said "I'm sorry I'm reading, it's really important. I need to study this; I'm sorry I can't be distracted." And he said "What are you reading?" And I answered, "How to overcome shyness and talk to strangers."

I resent and admire girls who can easily slip into the center of attention and be like "look at me, look at me!" and direct the conversation. When I see girls flirt with boys to get attention anger screams inside my ears. Often times they're flirting with them, but they'll never even put out. It's much healthier to stay silent around men and secretly fuck them and then feel guilty after. I watched in vehement anger from the shadows while girls confidently leaped into conversations, making groups of people laugh. People with assertive/aggressive energy intimidate me and make me very anxious and uncomfortable.

According to the Shy and free website, "Shyness is the emphasis of one part of us resulting in the limitation of our personal freedom and expression." I guess that describes it pretty well. I feel very limited/trapped/inhibited by my shyness.

It was really hard for me to deal with rejection and failed attempts at friend making. But while researching this bit I looked up Kasia on facebook and I think it's okay that we never became friends because now Kasia is now married, orange-tan, and lives in Pullayup and puts posts on facebook about the Twilight movies. So I don't think I missed out on much.

As crippling and painful as shyness is, I need to learn to deal with it and accept myself for who I am. I'll never be the outgoing girl who is the center of attention, but do I want to be that? Probably not. Sometimes I'm jealous of how quickly assertive people make friends... Do I want to be a loud outgoing brassy broad? I have no idea. But I do know this: my favorite comedians: Maria Bamford, Mary Mack and Aparna Nancherla have quiet, introspective, observer styles of comedy. People who display aggressiveness on stage I am turned off by. My favorite style of comedy is thoughtful, sweet, quirky... I like performers that sound kind and gentle on stage. I am a quiet, peculiar, wallflower, weird, observer person/writer/comedian and I think that is okay that I am that way!

1 comment:

  1. "I revel in being alone and I feel exhausted being around people too long. I want to make friends but I hate meeting people."

    Barbara, you might enjoy this article about our shared social affliction.

    It won't surprise you at all -- or might totally surprise you -- to hear that I'm in the middle of one of those conversation books. It's available as an ebook, brilliantly, so I can read it on my Kindle and nobody can tell what I'm reading. Or judge me for it. (Until I just told the Internet!)