Everyone Has A Story

I am one of those weird people at a social gathering–one of those ‘outskirters’ who sit on the sidelines watching everyone else.  The interest isn’t in what people are wearing or what accessories they have, I create their individual stories in my head.   What paths have they walked making them the people they are today?  What are their struggles?  What traumas have they gone through?  What personal hurts and disappointments have they endured?   What has given them the survivor skills to skate the social miasma that forces people to put on the mask of what-others-expect-from-us?

I don’t like social gatherings or the small, meaningless talk and superficial smiles of the socially acceptable behavior in meeting new people.  Some may call it social anxiety, but I go into a deep-seated lock-down from sensory overload.  Too many conversations going on at once with voices escalating in the desire to be heard sends me retreating deep within myself to my imaginary happy place.  The comfort zone is one-on-one interactions where I get the opportunity to talk to people about things that matter–the carry-ons and other baggage that mold us and shape us into better human beings.  I want to hear true stories and experiences.

Instead, I observe and pick up small clues that feed my imagination.  I notice the wary expression of a wife when she sees her husband getting more and more aggressive as he grabs another double from the bar.  I see the hostess flitting from one group to another trying to ensure everyone’s comfort, only to see her guests whispering as she walks away because her husband has been exceptionally familiar with the brunette that showed up in the inappropriate leather miniskirt.  There is also the man trying to fit in among those who had once embraced his newly ex-wife and himself when they were a couple, only to feel a not-so-subtle chill from people he used to consider friends.   The cluster of women in the center of the room gets increasingly loud as they mercilessly tear down a coworker who is not in attendance.

These observations of human behavior are not bad, as we have all been there at one time or another.  The motivation is seeking the reasons people are the way they are.  Why do they feel better about themselves when criticizing another?  Why do they feel uncomfortable around a newly divorced friend?   When did a husband reach a point where he started looking for validation outside of his marriage?  What makes a woman endure physical harm even when she can predict it coming?  There are stories waiting to be told.  Those are the ones I want to hear.  Who cares about the weather, the latest political polls, or the best restaurants in town?  I want to know what makes humans tick.

Yes, I’m one of those weird people at a social gathering–one of those socially awkward outskirters.  I also realize making those important human connections is impossible without getting out of my comfort zone and actually interacting.  Then, hopefully, my yearning for those personal stories will be met.

There’s no other choice.

Cover me, I’m going in.



  1. I am so on board with this post. This is me, too. But where I like to observe is waiting at traffic lights, or standing in a line at the market, the post office, sitting in the waiting room at the doc’s office. Anywhere I can catch the look of folks faces without them being aware. I believe most people are in agony from the stories they hold inside. Good OR bad. Sorrow and joy need to be shared to be borne.

    There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you. (Zora Neale Hurston)

  2. I so relate to this. I don’t notice or remember what people are wearing, what their names are, or who they’re with. I remember their stories. If I don’t know their stories, I try to figure them out. Once again, great post! I’m enjoying your blog.

  3. I think we almost have the same attitude when we’re in a social gathering or meetings. I am more of an observer and I tend to eavesdrop instead of interacting. Nice post for A to Z challenge.

  4. I’m also awkward in situations like the ones you describe. I’m no good at small talk that feels like it’s only passing the time until you can find a safe cue to move away. Well written, I’m enjoying your A to Z posts.

  5. As you move past different people observing and trying to understand them,you see a guy in the corner with the same intent in his mind. Your eyes meet and you both smile…

    Wouldn’t that be interesting story??

    I really like this one, very beautifully written… 🙂 made me think in various angles..

  6. Five great posts in the atozchallenge so far. Well done. I certainly relate to this one. I’m the one who always thinks of the scintillating contribution five minutes after the conversation has moved on. And right now I’m in the middle of writing a story about domestic abuse. Not only do I wonder why victims stick around, but why do the abusers do it in the first place. I need to find satisfactory answers to both questions if I am to make this story ring true.
    Frank Parker’s Author Site

  7. I’m the same way in terms of wanting to remain on the outskirts. Over the years I’ve trained myself to be better, but it’s still difficult for me to mingle. But there are benefits to us being great observers: fodder for fiction writing! Almost makes those social gatherings worth it. Almost. 😉

  8. So true. I feed my imagination at social gatherings as well. Find character descriptions for my novels. It’s an interesting environment. Not a fan of the loud guests who do anything to stand out. Or being interrupted constantly while trying to say something because … something else just came up. I’m pretty social, but meaningful discussions are difficult to conduct most times.
    Great post. Thank you.

  9. I have always loved learning about people’s life stories, and you explained that well here. Some of us are active participants and some prefer or are more comfortable being observers. Like you, I want to connect with the depth of a person and their life experience, I don’t have much time for trivial chatter. I think this is a fun way to develop new characters for fiction writing! I stopped by from the A-Z Challenge. 😉
    Josie Two Shoes from Josie’s Journal

  10. You said it perfectly for me with “Too many conversations going on at once with voices escalating in the desire to be heard”.
    I’m already uncomfortable in a room full of people I don’t know, but add a lot of noise, I mentally retreat.

  11. I, too, am socially awkward. As you know, I have always been one of the ones you need to look out for (the quiet ones). This one hits very close to home for me. Kudos to you for going in!! Love ya sis!

      1. Since getting into management, I have come out of my shell a lot! I was forced to, because quiet managers get walked on. I still don’t like social functions, but I do at least try to contribute the conversation where I didn’t so much before.

        1. I think I’ve just lost faith in humanity as a whole, but I’ve gotten the small talk down okay. I still pick and choose very carefully who I open up to, but it’s getting better. I’m glad that you’ve come out of your shell, especially at work. Can’t wait until the family reunion! ILY

  12. What a brilliantly written piece. Well, many years ago, I used to be the one who arranged everything, ordered everyone’s meals..(yes I’m cringing now too), mainly because I was awkward being with me, I preferred to be with others. Now I love being with me, have little time for social interactions other than when I have my writers head on, need more content and am the observer or having 1:1 in depth conversations. In later life I’m trying to be a bit more sociable again but it’s taking a lot more effort than I recall.

  13. I don’t mind being with many people at once in a meeting or such. My problem is that sometimes I feel like put aside and not fully appreciated. I’m weird, I know, but people sometimes stress the point!
    However, sometimes, I do the same imagining background stories, in particular when on the train or in some crowded places like airports!

  14. This is a great post. I’m the annoying person at the party who doesn’t just observe, but will also corner the lone, ex-husband and ask him, “So, do you feel awkward here?” Then, later I’ll write about it.

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