Someone invited me to join their group of friends tomorrow night. We’re going to one of those painting places where they tell you how to paint a nice, seasonal scene and as long as you listen to the directions, at the end of the night you all end up with some swell art.
As verbose as some of my blog posts can be, I’m a pretty quiet person in real life.
I come from a family of bookish nerds, so I’m introverted by nature and nurture, which probably has something to do with it. Another piece of it is self-preservation, I guess. Years of observation have taught me that sometimes stupid things come out of people’s mouths. I still say the darndest things, so it’s not like silence makes me immune, but it definitely cuts down on the sheer volume of dumb things I could be saying.
You know how cartoons in commercials have late-night epiphanies where they sit up straight in bed and their nightcap flies off their head in excitement? I had one of those last night, and I’m still looking for my hat. (Unrelated: It’s totally weird cartoon characters wear hats to bed, even though most of the people I know don’t even wear pants after 7.)
Some people out there are innately cool. Whatever is happening, they know enough about society and its expectations to conduct themselves in an acceptable and awesome manner. They don’t get nervous every time they have to meet new people, they don’t worry for hours about making a phone call, and they don’t despair over the way they ordered a glass of water in a restaurant. They are the Samuel L. Jacksons of social situations, and I am one of them.
I don’t know what the opposite of Samuel L. Jackson is, but I think it’s either one of those really shivery dogs or me. Not every situation throws me for a hand-wringing, stomach-dropping loop (For example, eating Cheez-Its. I am so good at eating Cheez-Its I can’t even stand it). Unfortunately, there are some things out there that most people can handle with grace, but that reduce me to a puddle of socially-awkward goo.
I fervently believe there’s a level of hell that’s full of people standing awkwardly around a bowl of pretzels, trying to make small talk. I really hate parties. I never know how to dress, how to act, what to say, where to stand, or what to eat. A lot of my party-going time is spent standing in corners, staring at the wall across the room, with an expression that I think is a friendly, welcoming look, but which has been interpreted as a withering, “stay-away-because-my-best-friend-just-died” look. (Those aren’t my words. A stranger once described my face that way in high school.)
I spend a lot of time being awkward. It’s such an innate skill of mine that I’m thinking of turning it into a street performance act and making a little money. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill you can really brag about at dinner parties or after-work get-togethers. I demonstrate it for people instead, but no one really gets my art. The point is, I’m terrible in social gatherings of four or more. I can’t be the only one, either, so I made a guide. (I know I’ve been making a lot of guides lately. It’s all in the hope that they’ll help me, too. So far no dice.)
Stephanie Summar, Conjuror of All Things Awkward, Presents “How Not to Act at Parties”
Don’t rely on food to help you.
This is a rookie mistake… that I make all the time. I spend a tremendous amount of my life vigilantly avoiding food that isn’t bite-sized because I know the instant I put it in my mouth, someone will ask me a question or need CPR. At parties, however, I do the opposite. Some foolish part of me believes that if my mouth is full of food, it will discourage conversation. This is wrong. Exactly as you’re struggling to close your mouth over a piece of sushi the size of your fist, someone will ask how you know the host. Then you’ll both have to stand there in embarrassed anguish, while you plead with your eyes that they walk away so you can tilt your head back and swallow the raw fish like a pelican.