See, I don’t go to parties. (I don’t go to crowded movie theaters, malls, or concerts, if I can help it, either.) There are three reasons for this:
1. I have mild-to-moderate social anxiety. The idea of being forced to relate, on a social level, with people makes me nervous. I feel like I’m going to say something stupid. Then, in order to cover up my nervousness, I do one of two things: I start rambling (this causes people to think I’m adorably neurotic, have Tourette’s, or am a basket case) or I clam up entirely and stand in a corner like the bad fairy who wasn’t invited to the christening, glowering at everyone. None of these is really preferable to staying home, which is what I end up doing, if I can help it.
2. I have agoraphobia. I don’t like crowds. I have a physical aversion to being touched, even by accident, by strangers. (I don’t like much to be touched by people I know, either. I kind of need to be locked up in a crystal tower for the rest of my life to avoid the issues that plague me.) Large crowds = lots and lots and lots of touching, usually by accident, sometimes on purpose. Do you know about frotteurism? It’s a thing. It’s a real thing. People might be doing this to you. That bump against your thigh might not have been by accident. Think about this the next time you’re in a crowd. That doesn’t make you nervous? Seriously?
3. I hate people.
The first two are real issues, which I suppose I could work on with the help of a team of psychiatrists, drugs, aversion therapy, what-have-you, and come out all shiny-happy-people on the other side. Here’s the thing. I’ve been to therapy. Therapy sucks, and doesn’t work for me. Neither do pills. I know, I know. “My therapist is awesome!” “My pills are a godsend!” “Are you a Christian Scientist?” I’m happy for you, I really am, and no, I totally believe in better living through pharmacology. My brain doesn’t work like other people’s brains do, I’ve tried both therapy and drugs, and I don’t want to be a zombie robot person again, which is what drugs do to me, and I don’t want to tell some stranger – a stranger I am paying my life savings to – my issues, either. I mean, that’s what the Internet’s for, right? Strangers you don’t have to pay will listen to your problems! (No, Nervous Nellie, I’m not going to tell you my problems. Relax. They’re none of your business.)
The last one – well, yeah, I hate people. I really, really hate 90% of people. Oh, what? No! Not you! I couldn’t possibly mean YOU! Most people are – how to put this nicely? Kind of useless. They don’t make an effort. They don’t think before they act. They ignore obvious social cues. They – and this is one of my number one pet peeves of all time – waste my time.
I have very, very limited time. I work two jobs. I have what amounts to almost a full-time job at the theater where I volunteer. I am home, on average, one or two nights a week, other than the time I’m sleeping. So when I have free time, it is a luxury. People that have no consideration for that time make me want to throttle them. If I am on my way home from work, and you stop me for “just a minute” to chat, even when I say I’m going to be late for something else? RUDE. If I’m on my way home from volunteering, and I’m so ready to sleep that I can barely keep my eyes open, and you decide you’re lonely and you want it to be social hour and WON’T.STOP.TALKING? RUDE. If I’m doing something, and it’s working fine, and you think I should be doing it differently just because you’re a time-wasting shit-weasel with nothing better to do all day than to think up ways to waste my time and fray my nerves? RUDE. If you tell me you’ll be somewhere at a certain time and you show up half an hour late and I could have been doing something else with that time? RUDE and INCONSIDERATE. If you tell me you’re going to call me and you don’t and I was waiting around for it? RUDE. Do I need to go on? I think you get it. Wasting my time is a cardinal sin with me. Like, if I had been Moses with the Ten Commandments, that would totally have been #2:
THOU SHALT NOT WASTE MY TIME
#1, of course, is, as always:
THOU SHALT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THINE OWN SHIT
I haven’t decided on the other 8 yet. One of them has to do with waiting your turn in lines (whether at a store, in a line of cars waiting to merge, whatever), though. One is about not shitting where you eat (literally and figuratively.) And one is about not touching me. That’s #3.
Because Arrested Development quotes belong on the New and Improved Shiny Ten Commandments.
Do you know people like this? I call them Time Sucks. (Sucks like they suck away your time, not “they suck,” but they also do suck, so it works on many levels and is clever like that.) There are definite rules to dealing with a Time Suck. First: recognizing a time suck. They have sad and/or desperate eyes. They are needy. When you are around them, time….sloooowssss….downnnnnn. The rest of the world, however, the world you are missing, seems to be going by at a frenetic pace you are desperate to rejoin, but you cannot, because you! Have been captured! By a Time Suck! The key rule in avoiding Time Sucks: be firm. NO WAFFLING. Tell the Time Suck – FIRMLY – “No, I’m sorry, no time now.” Do not be fooled by the sad eyes or passive-aggressive, “Oh, ok, I was just…” NO! It is a TRICK! You will be looking at vacation photos until DOOMSDAY, I am TELLING YOU! Briskly walk away! You have a MISSION and PURPOSE! The MISSION and PURPOSE is to get out of the Time Suck’s orbit, because I am telling you, he or she WILL SUCK YOU IN AND YOU WILL DIE THERE AND YOUR DEATH WILL BE SLOW! SLOW AND BORING!
Also, listen, I am almost always exhausted. I have this hereditary thing where I can’t sleep. Sometimes I can. But not for long. And not well. So I often am running on very little sleep. This makes me cranky. Some days I’ve gotten more sleep and I’m better than others. But you don’t want to bother me on the days I got less than four hours. You really don’t want to load me up with trivial details. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I just wander away. Sometimes I say words that aren’t in the correct order and make no sense. It’s never very entertaining. Mostly, it’s scary. See? It’s best, if you know you have something stupid and worthless and time-wastey you want to share? To stay right away from me. Because I do not care for it, and mentally, I am not able to function on the level it takes to deal with it.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, people. Hate. Here’s the thing, though. Unless I know you pretty well, you would have no idea if I hated you or not. I can count on one hand the number of people who know me well enough to read my facial expressions to tell if I’m just being polite or if I want to smack you for being an ass. One of my theater friends is excellent at this. She knows just when to swoop in and rescue me. We have shorthand for it: flames. This is from the movie Clue. Which I love. Irrationally. If you don’t, you might have missed the bus to crazytown. You love Clue, right? (No, not Clueless. Which is also fun, but a very different movie.) If you do, you probably know the scene: Madeline Kahn is talking about the woman her husband had an affair with. “I hated her…so much. It – It – the - flames…on the side of my face….burning…” And she acts it out, and it is brilliant, with her hand crawling up the side of her face. You know about this, right? I suppose you could YouTube it, but I’m not even going to give you a link, because I want you to get the whole movie right now and watch it, because the entire thing is a big old bowl of awesomesauce. Anyway, my theater friend knows when I am having flames, and she insinuates herself between me and the person who is causing me to flame out, and says something like, “Amy! I need you for an important thing, in the place!” and helps me with a timely escape before I roll up my script into a tight tube and give them a hasty and unplanned tracheotomy with it.
If you want to get all psychological, I’m sure this all stems from me rejecting people before they can reject me, because I’m a beautiful broken disaster of a woman who was a severe bullying victim for most of her formative years. Or, if you want to be more practical about it and stop being judgmental and thinking you know me because you don’t, a lot of people are just really, really stupid, and small talk makes me want to scream. I don’t want to chat. I want to get shit done. I want to be doing something important; if there is nothing important to be doing, I want to either be on my couch watching television, or sleeping. These are my priorities. Chatting about what happened at rehearsal for a show I’m not involved in, what some guy I don’t even know said one time and how shocking that was, or how much your cell phone plan costs you per month, then broken down per day, really is not a judicious use of the small amount of leisure time I have, thanks, though. I know. It’s all about knowing how to play the game. I’ll never get ahead in this world without knowing this very basic skill, how to chat mindlessly about nothing. Fine. If that’s the case, I’ll stay where I am. As mentioned, I hate and fear time sucks; small talk = a major time suck.
I break down social invitations (the ones where I have a choice of attending; some are, unfortunately, mandatory) thusly: a. will I enjoy it more than watching television or sleeping? b. will it cause a nervous breakdown of epic proportions? If I can safely answer yes and no to these questions, I will attend. If not, no, thanks. So if you ask me out and I say yes, congratulations! You are more important to me than television or my bed, and not likely to cause me to weep in the bathroom.
This having been said, I am, above all else, a theater person. I went to school to learn how to act; when called upon to attend a function where it matters that I interact in an adult fashion, I do so with aplomb. I’m not saying I enjoy myself. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times in the past ten years or so that I’ve enjoyed a social function. But people don’t know that. I’m very well-behaved. I can, even - and have, even, and will, again, I’m sure – MC the event. In front of everyone. I know! Fancy! I’m good at it. I take it on like a role – I’m playing the part of a socially-poised adult who likes to entertain. And I knock that role out of the park. I make people laugh; I make things run smoothly; I improvise and goof around and I should get a damn Oscar, honestly, because inside I’m screaming get me OUT of here, already, TOO MANY GODDAMN PEOPLE ONE OF THEM MIGHT TOUCH ME!
There are people who are suffering, much more severely than I am, with social anxiety. Jessica has been blogging her way through dealing with her issues with it, and I applaud her bravery – she’s facing the problem head-on, like an adult does, with grace and humor. I’m taking the other route – the Bartleby the Scrivener route, I guess. When faced with something he didn’t want to do, Bartleby said “I would prefer not to.” This is my go-to answer. I would prefer not to. I would prefer not to go to a party where I’m going to spend the whole time afraid to open my mouth because I’m afraid I’ll look like a fool and I won’t enjoy it anyway. I would prefer not to. I can, I could force myself to, but would prefer not to. I thank everyone for attempting to include me, and I appreciate the invitations, and once and a while, I’ll actually accept one, but for the most part, when I have the opportunity to do so, I would prefer to stay home. I would prefer to do that. I would prefer very much to do that, actually, so I think I will.