It might surprise people to hear that I suck at making friends. I’m a very friendly person and it’s easy for me to carry on a conversation at work, in line at Philz, in the locker room at the gym, on a plane, etc., etc. I have a plethora of opportunities to make friends! People like me! Unfortunately, I suffer from intense anxiety that manifests itself as what I like to think of as a little monster in the back of my skull that convinces me at every turn that I should stay home and watch TV on my couch.
This is what it’s like in my head when I do things that might otherwise lead to friendship:
Scenario: Someone invites me to a social gathering where I will sort of know people
I’m so excited! Someone has invited me to a social gathering tonight! I’m gonna make so many new friends! What should I bring? What should I wear? There’s a bottle of wine in the cabinet but like what if it’s shitty and they judge me for being a shitty wine buyer? Or what if everyone else brings beer? Oh my God, what if they don’t drink? Should I just bring chips? What if they’re paleo? What if they think I’m a chip-eating fatty? Should I bring carrots? What if they think I’m judging their eating habits? I could bring hummus. Hummus is universally appropriate. Wait, but what am I gonna wear? Is this top too low-cut? Will everyone think I’m trying to seduce the host with my cleavage? Am I too dressed up? WHAT IF IT’S FORMAL? What if it’s a pajama party? What if everyone shows up wearing onesies? Are these earrings too jingly? Fuck it. I’m staying home.
Scenario: I consider inviting an acquaintance who lives nearby to hang out
I could totally take the train up to the city to hang out with this girl from my year at Vassar! I bet we have a ton in common and we just didn’t know it at school because the only reason we know each other is because we both hooked up with that dude with the receding hairline. Oh my God, what are we gonna talk about? That guy’s makeout technique over the years? Cappy’s haircut? Eggs all day? This is literally going to be the most awkward situation of all time. Oh my God, this is gonna be one of those situations where I just keep talking to fill the silence and then she thinks I’m batshit crazy. Maybe if I think of a list of appropriate topics, we won’t end up comparing “I-made-out-with-Receding-Hairline-Guy-five-years-ago” war stories. Umm… careers? Hobbies? Interests? Oh my God, she’s gonna ask me if I watch Breaking Bad and when I say I don’t she’s gonna think I’m super lame and a big weirdo. Fuck it. I’m staying home.
Scenario: I join the website Meetup and study the opportunities available for twentysomethings living in Silicon Valley
What a great website! It’s just what I’ve always dreamed of: OkCupid for friends! Except you don’t get to know anything about the people you’re hanging out with. And they’re probably all gonna show up in groups anyway and you’re just gonna be awkward in the corner alone until some weird engineer dude from SurveyMonkey tries to get in your pants under the misguided impression that you’re looking for love with an MIT alum who dresses exclusively in T-shirts they give him at work. Oh, God, what if it’s all dudes from SurveyMonkey wearing T-shirts from work? What if they all band together and talk about NoSQL and think I’m a bimbo with a worthless degree? What if there are other bimbos with worthless degrees there and they’re all prettier and more charming than me? WHAT IF THERE ARE REPUBLICANS? There is a zero percent chance that I’m going to end up anywhere but awkward in the corner alone. Probably without even a weird dude from SurveyMonkey wearing a T-shirt from work trying to get into my pants. Fuck it. I’m staying home.
Scenario: I debate the merits of sitting down to eat lunch with coworkers I vaguely know versus bringing my lunch back to my desk
I’m going to go sit with that table of people I vaguely know! There’s an open chair! They aren’t playing a card game with an arcane set of rules that you practically have to have a B.S. in computer science to understand! It’s a perfect opportunity to make new friends. Wait… are they all on the same team? Are they having a lunch meeting? What if I sit down and they’re like “Hey, um, sorry, but we’re having a lunch meeting” and then I have to get up and move? And then they’re all like “How did that girl not notice that we’re having a lunch meeting?” Fuck it. I’m going back to my desk.
It is as if you can read my mind! Beautifully written.
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I always eat my lunch at my desk! It’s terrible because I feel like my officemate judges me because he is social and eats with people. But seriously, making friends is hard. I know I just said I have some, but I’ve been in Madison for a year and a half. And I started this job with a really good friend from high school who I could make attend all the awkward functions with me, so I would feel less awkward about it. I also signed up for meetup and then never attended anything. What I do is fill my days with activities I enjoy, so that even if I don’t meet anyone, at least I’m staying busy. But maybe that isn’t a strategy for everyone.