Saturday, October 07, 2006

Standing up

Last night I went to hear a co-worker perform standup. I wanted to go; I think he's funny and I generally enjoy standup, even find it entertaining when it's bad. There was a group from work going but nobody I really knew, and so I reached out to some non-work friends, but wasn't able to convince anyone that this might be fun. (To be fair, most had other plans, but I think if it were something really phenomenal plans might have not been as solid.) By yesterday morning I'd pretty much decided I wasn't going, and then one of the colleagues I do know said she would go.

This is a lot of background, and boring background at that, to explain that I showed up at a social gathering without an "anchor," which is highly unusual for me. The group was meeting in a bar first, and walking into a bar alone is one of the things I just don't do well. Or enjoy doing, even if I can pull it off. But secure in the knowledge that I'd know at least one person, I made my way to the meeting point, only to discover (did you know this was coming?) a crowd of completely unfamiliar faces, other than the comic himself. So. I think I held my own for the two drinks we shared; it was a fairly quiet bar (really a restaurant with good margaritas, although we didn't eat) and added myself to one of the subgroups when we walked together to the comedy club and secured our table. Here, of course, it was loud and dark, and it didn't matter who I was sitting with. (The woman who'd told me earlier she'd be there? Never showed.)

The comedy? Hit and miss. Some were funny, some were sadly not. My heart goes out to those who aren't, because they make themselves so vulnerable and to do that without being good at it is difficult to watch. Our guy was good; although not one of the funniest, he managed to pull off a few big laughs (one for a long joke he closed with, which, sadly, I've heard before. And not from him.) Anyway, my two drink minimum (after the two margaritas earlier) was two diet cokes, and the show ended fairly quickly.

Post-show congratulations followed, and then a plan to dispense to another bar for some food and drink. On the way I kept thinking I should just duck into the subway and go home, even though I was talking to a few new people I'd just met as we walked. I didn't feel my usual social awkwardness, just tired and not sure how much longer I wanted to stay out. And then, the bar: we went down into a small lounge downstairs, which was nearly empty and filled with velvet couches and seemed very promising, until they turned on the huge tv screen and massive speakers to broadcast the Yankee game. Have I mentioned how much I don't like televised sports? Some of it is boredom (baseball live can be fun, but on tv, excrutiating) and some the drone of the announcers, which gives me a headache (and probably stems from childhood, when my father started sleeping in the den and the sound of televised baseball seeping through the house is entwined in memory with the tension of my parents' dying marriage.) See, I know why I hate it, but that doesn't make me hate it any less.

So it's so loud now that I have no chance of carrying on a conversation with anyone, and most of the crowd is now paired up in the familiar groupings they arrived in, close-talking to be heard, and I'm sitting there trying to look either interested in the game or in the nearby conversations that I can't even hear, and the menu comes out and of course it's bar food, with maybe 2 options for non-meat eaters, both of which (fish and chips, and macaroni and cheese) will set my daily calorie intake aflame. Now, I'm not adverse to going off my eating plan for special occasions, but if I'm going to, it will be for food I really want, not something I'm settling for. Still, I might have ordered something but the place was so loud and the waiter found it so difficult to make his way around our table, that he wound up skipping me and disappearing to the kitchen without taking my order. I took this as a sign. I said my goodbyes, and made my exit.

I clearly have some level of social anxiety, and yet I don't think this was as much that as simply not enjoying myself [just heard on the radio, as I'm typing this, that the Yankees lost last night, in what is apparently a game that matters, as opposed to all of those games 99% of the time that don't.] I know if I were a more outgoing person, I'd have been able to insert myself into more conversations, even in the loud bar, but I felt no real compulsion to do so. Is it age? I'm at least 10 years older than most of them (other than the comic); likely closer to 20 for some. But, I was like this when I was in my late 20's, also, even when I was with groups of friends, standing (or sitting) around in crowded loud bars held no interest for me.

This morning I feel oddly like I passed a great test (attending a social function without being sure that I'd know anyone) and failed another (unable to keep myself in a group of strangers long enough to possibly make friends.) I'm not sure how to process that. But thanks for reading as I try.


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