Socially Impaired

I am brusquely jolted from my mellow, Sunday morning slumber.  I’ve just remembered.  I have to go to a party this afternoon.  Oh, heck.

“I wish I didn’t have to go,” I tell H. over a plateful of French toast.

He’s heard this before.  Many times.  Every time we’ve been invited to a social event involving more than two or three other people.

“Oh, I’m really looking forward to it,” he says.

H. is shy at large gatherings.  I turn into a social butterfly.  He spends a lot of time examining the host’s bookshelves.  I flit about, trying to impress as many people as I can.  He is relaxed.  I have a nervous clump in my stomach.  When we first met, H. remarked on how perfectly “in (my) element” I was at parties.  He knows me better now.

I get dressed, paint my face and grumble,  H. tactfully avoids pointing out that, had I not been invited, I would be sulking and complaining that “nobody ever invites me anywhere”.  He knows me well.

We arrive.  H.’s attention is drawn to the books lining the living room walls.  I dive into the fray, flashing smiles, joining in the conversation, my brain on overdrive.  Everybody I speak to is very pleasant, interesting, easy to to talk to.  I enjoy the conversation.  So there’s no reason why I should be constantly aware of the clump in my stomach.

A couple of hours later, like a cat that’s just noticed a chink in a fence, I detect an opportunity for a socially acceptable exit.  I dart in search of H. and can barely repress my irritation at seeing he has just helped himself to cake.  I bristle.  How long is it going to take him to finish that cake? I whizz around kissing, thanking and wishing a happy Christmas.  Oh, good, H. has finished his cake.  Quick, the coats.  Anyone would think I was having a miserable time, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  I fly out of the front door like a bat out of hell, and walk fast along the pavement.  All the time, I’m thinking about how much I liked the people at the party, and how much I’d like to see them again.  At the same time, I can’t wait to get home.  I know exactly what I will do once I’m there.

The second we’re back in our flat, I rush into the kitchen and put the kettle on.  In the living room, I light the fire and all the candles and night lights.  I don’t want the lamps on.  Not yet.  I change from my skirt and blouse into my leggings and oversized lambswool man’s cardigan.

Within five minutes of coming back home, I am sitting on the floor, staring into the wavering blue flames of the gas fire, sipping almond tea from a bone china mug, listening to the yearning violin of Von Biber’s Rosary Sonatas.  The fragrant tea and the music soothe my frantic soul back into my body.  H. comes to sit behind me, on the sofa, and picks up the mug of tea I’ve left for him on the low table.

We sit in silence, except for the shooshing of the gas fire and the soulful baroque violin.

The clump in my stomach slowly dissolves, and I feel whole again.

“It’s all right, we can put the lamps on now, if you like,” I say to H. as I get off the floor.

Scribe Doll

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13 Responses to Socially Impaired

  1. evanatiello says:

    I don’t know which I prefer, they are both so inviting. Lucky you!

  2. :-)) less ‘socially impaired’ and more ‘socially aware’…I believe I am a card-carrying member of that club, also…

  3. I used to enjoy hosting parties more than attending parties. I think it was because as an introvert, I was in control of the guest list. At parties elsewhere I am out of my element. The coming home sounded divine!

  4. dechareli says:

    Interesting experience. I can feel whole at a party, when the people are right, I have a lot of fun when I don’t have to do a mascarade –
    pretending to be someone I am not – and at the same time I can feel bored at home – even with Biber! I guess We needs both: social events and the solitude or the coziness of a home. With time, I have learned to pick carefully the social events I attend…

    • Scribe Doll says:

      I pick social events carefully too but one often has to attend professional ones. I love socialising, don’t get me wrong, but I often find my fellow-humans’ company, exhausting, especially when I have to make small talk.

      • dechareli says:

        Indeed. Small talk is something I am not good at. But if you give me the right keywords like “music” or “books” I can talk for hours… and be quite exhausting! 😇

  5. Christine Hartelt says:

    Your essay reminded me so much of what I’ve learned over the years about introverts and myself from the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. I used to be like H.–the quiet one at parties who was happiest scanning the bookshelves or tucked into a corner all night conversing with one or two people. After college I made a concerted effort to overcome my native shyness, so much so that my son Peter told me a few years ago, “Mom, you’ll talk to anybody!” It’s true. I do strike up conversations with clerks or people I meet in passing. I’m not nor ever have been an extrovert, but I am a writer and long ago I learned that everyone I meet has a story–or multiple stories. I enjoy hearing those stories. I also read recently that it’s not uncommon for an INFJ to be mistaken for an extrovert, because we try “to draw people out.” (The INFJ type is the rarest Myers Brigg Type; it’s also the type known as “the writer.”) But like you, Katia, I can be “on” for only so long. I get to a point where I can feel myself rapidly deflating like a balloon. Then I have to retreat to recoup my energy. Like any other introvert, parties are draining for me. I can draw people out, seek out the shy people and make them feel welcome, introduce topics when the conversation stalls, but all of this zaps my energy. To replenish my energy, like all introverts, I need time alone or with a trusted person or persons. I know the Myers Briggs can be controversial. Not everyone can be put in a box like a pickle jar. I think the Myers Briggs is best used when it helps us understand our preferences. I have found that the Myers Briggs has helped me to understand myself better. If you haven’t taken the MBTI, it might be intriguing for you. You also might enjoy Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I couldn’t put the book down! Thank you again, Katia, for a well-written and thoughtful essay.

  6. I know just what you’re talking about. I too like the festive feeling and vibrant atmosphere of parties, without feeling entirely comfortable there. And I too like to go over the party when I come home, and unwind, yet I remain “up” for days with the happiness the event brings me. Have a great holiday season, Katia.

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