Thursday, March 6, 2008

in need of social ex-lax

You'll have to forgive the following sitcom example; we've been working our way through all 10 seasons of Friends for the second time in 4 months, which is what happens when you live with a full time student and continually have experiences like this:

There's an episode of Friends where Mike (Pheobe's boyfriend) and Ross spend an evening together while Pheobe and Rachel have a girls' night out (it's on the second disc of the 9th season if you also suffer from The Syndrome). Ross, albeit possessive and dorky, is an educated and capable conversationalist. Mike, also a bit eccentric (sitcoms are like the stage makeup of television programming), is equally as engaging under normal circumstances. One would expect two interesting people such as this to interact with ease, gamboling through shared interests and current events. Instead, they sit in agony, straining more than an old lady who's run out of Metamucil.

I don't profess to be a social cougar, but ever since moving to the drrty drrty, I have to admit, I've felt more akin to a social woodlouse (a.k.a. roly poly or pill bug).

My proclivity to shyness is partially to blame (please see blog title). I’m not one to take social initiative unless I’ve established a comfort zone with someone, and I’m certainly not one to use my own life as a conversational device (that getting people to talk about themselves maxim will NOT work on me). I’d like to think that if I were more inspired by something (anything) personal, I’d be able to hold my own a little more. As it stands, I hover on the edge of group conversations and make no advance to start or maintain one-on-one interactions.

The other half of the equation revolves around the interpersonal “click” (not to be confused with the high school horror known as the “clique”). I’m talking about the feeling you get when you realize an hour has passed and not once did you agonize over what to say next. Part of the problem may be my sample size. My current job requires interacting with a maximum of 3 people on any given work day, which averages out to zero people because I have a very hands-off supervisor and my work is generally not collaborative. I come in contact with coffeeshopgirl's schoolmates on a semi-regular basis, depending on their respective workloads. [Enter the Friends example.] Most of these schoolmates (some of which read this blog, so I apologize ahead of time for the possible offensiveness) are genuinely nice people, but I constantly find myself struggling for some way to connect. Inevitably, I give in and ask about their school work because it's the most readily available subject and one that they gravitate towards like a fat kid to a box of krispy kreme donuts. In their defense, my social constipation doesn’t stop with the design obsessed. I’ve had so many lukewarm and stilted interactions in the past 12 months that it’s made me dread contact with the outside world.

Maybe I’ll just stay home and communicate with the squirrels in the attic. They can scratch at whatever it is they scratch at up there, and I can thump a response on the ceiling with my baseball bat. There will be a rhythm, and it won’t feel like someone has sucked my lifeblood when we go our separate ways.

Or perhaps it’s time to dust off the juggling balls and revisit my circus roots.


Steve said...

I think many of us think our conversational/social habits are far more awkward than they really are. It's a matter of self-perception. Everybody feels a little weird talking to people they don't know all that well. (And sometimes to people they DO know well!)

Jes said...

If it helps, I feel the same way. I find myself more and more at home with the animals or hanging out with only one or two close friends these days. I'm sure the squirrels in the attic would love the conversation--you could turn it into some fabulous article on animal cognition. :)

If you ever want to be socially quiet together, let me know--

i.b. said...

its interesting i just read this as i called you yesterday to specifically have a nice normal, calm conversation about life, not a word about school. yep. you socially constipated squirrel. i called YOU.