I was out with The Brat one day and she ran into a friend of hers. She stopped to chit-chat while I stood aside, waiting. Later I found out Brat's friend remarked that I looked like a killer in my all-black ensemble.
Remarks like that deserves a one-finger salute, especially since we don't even know each other. The truth is, I am painfully shy, and social interactions with strangers can be particularly traumatic and draining. My manner of coping with uncomfortable social interaction is to put on a forbidding veneer. People tend to be more respectful of my personal space - and it helped me avoid the intense social interaction that terrifies me.
I am not against meeting new people - I just would prefer to do it on my own terms, and to be real. At work I meet vendors, publishers and other associates. I need to put on a professional front, which I try. But often it feels false.
One of my vendors, Wendy, turns out to be good friends with Ms F. One evening Ms F and I were out, and we ran into Wendy with a blind-date that was over the moment they met. We joined her table and we started chatting. I was comfortable that night, and so my defenses was down. This means I was my usual snarky self. Later that night, Wendy remarked to Ms F that she was surprised: Wendy found me incredibly funny and witty - and it was a joy to hang out with me. She had assumed, because of how I am at work, that I was humourless. I wasn't surprised, but this is partly how people see me at work. No joy. All business.
I admire people who can walk into a room and take everyone feel at home - which I heard is something Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are good at. My social skills is something I have to keep working at - but I wonder how. I'm lousy at small-talk, and I always prefer to listen. The blog allows me to interact at my own terms. When I do not wish to communicate, I can always just lurk, or put off answering emails. A part of me realises I am avoiding the issue of my own social-awkwardness, and it is not going to improve unless I keep working at it.
As I am slowly experimenting with Facebook, I have been adding some of my ex-classmates onto my list of friends. I wonder why am I doing it, when I hate having to socialise? The truth is, a lot of them are nice people that I never really bothered to know well enough. I should be making better effort to catch up - so I tell myself.
On this issue, I am divided by two opposing but powerful impulses:
One, the part of me that demands that I try to socialise more, because it recognises the need for me to get out of my own shell, to listen to other points of view. This is the part of me that says it is my responsibility to take the initiative to meet people. This is a necessary process of growth - the ability to assimilate and empathise with other people.
Then, the other part of of me - the introvert with a rich, full inner life. Who appreciates solitude, music, good books and learning. She is also the one who avoids the gossip-mongers at work, the one with independent thoughts, and who tells me I do not need external validation to be happy. She also tells me: only when I am truly at home in my own skin, will I be comfortable with other people.
I'm not sure who is winning. Probably the introvert - but not all the time.