Lots of people seem really surprised that I only have a certain tolerance for large group settings. Like the Most Interesting Man in the World, I am the life of parties I’ve never even been to. But when I get to an actual party or event or potluck or munch or whatever, the hourglass turns over and the countdown begins. Usually the sands spill for about two hours, and then I am done. When the sands are empty, my patience is, too.
My tolerance for all of the know it alls and the poor table manners and the veiled and ambiguous judgmenty rhetoric and especially the people who chew with their mouths open can go strong for 90 minutes or so. Two hours rolls around and all bets are off.
I know a lot of people with different social anxieties and they manifest in panic attacks and babbling and stammering and not being able to talk in front of a lot people. I don’t get that at all. When my social meter shows empty, I withdraw. I get morose and sullen and somber. People who know me ask me what’s wrong. Rather than have to face that, that’s the point when I’ll typically make my exit.
Of course, whenever I leave an event “so soon,” I am always drilled with questions about whether I am okay and if something is wrong and am I not liking the party. So lately I have taken to “ghosting,” where I just walk out. I am not sneaking out or trying to evade attention; I just leave. Sometimes I’ll say goodbye, sometimes not. If I am part of a group that is destined to change venues I’ll make sure to tell someone I am leaving so that I don’t have anyone worried that I was left behind. But for the most part, I don’t want to have to answer questions about why I am leaving and reassure people that they are not to blame for my discomfort.
I’m not trying to be a douche or upset anyone. I am doing just the opposite. I am trying to minimize my affecting anyone else’s good mood.
This highlights a recurring theme in my life. I am reassuring people for my discomfort. I seem to spend a lot of time comforting people and telling them that it’s okay that I am upset or angry or depressed. Sometimes when I am upset or angry or depressed I wonder why I don’t seem to get genuine concern. I get, “Did I do something?” So then I am down and having to boost other people who care less about my being upset than their potentially being to blame.
Then sometimes out of the blue, when things are going well, someone asks me if I’m okay. Sure, I’m fine. And then that someone will say something really supportive like, “Well you sound like an asshole for saying something I didn’t like.”
So I have to hide my angsty feelings because it makes other people uncomfortable. I can’t just withdraw and work through my angsty feelings on my own because other people want to make sure they aren’t to blame. And when things are going well, people like to pick fights to give me those angsty feelings again.
I was told once after a meeting at work that I needed to be more of a “team player.” I asked what that meant, and I was told that meant that I shouldn’t offer my opinions or corrections on other people’s work, and that I also shouldn’t defend my own work if my coworkers’ arguments or details or comments are incorrect.
Am I doomed to go through life squelching all of my own essence in order to make other people feel better? Am I selfish to want my own feelings and opinions handled with the same sort of consideration I am supposed to give everyone else’s?
Yeah, I am. Carry on, world. I need fair weather friends, too. And when I am upset, I’ll still make you feel better.