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.