Friday, April 17, 2009

Anxieties of One Naturally Inclined to be Antisocial

Nearly every Friday night, the LDS Institute in Logan puts on an activity of some sort. While all are invited to attend, they don't tend to attract the large crowds that they could. To be fair, you could say that some are more successful than others, but for the most part, they get a small turn out. Then again, what is your definition of small?

Last Friday, I was telling my room mate Eden about the crowd that these activities tend to attract. From my own harsh personal observation, I informed her that you'll always get a few geeky boys that show up right on time who are obviously girlfriend (and quite possibly friend)-less and are hoping that the night will introduce them to their eternal companion. It seems like they force themselves to go for this reason, not because they're just looking for a good time. They've no other options, and nothing better to do. Then, as the night goes on, the crowd that joins them isn't much better according to social standards. Man, I'm brutal. I apologize. As you'll see if you keep reading, I've no room to talk.

In any event, she was intrigued, and wanted to go over and have a look at these creatures. I didn't have any objections, and so we went over right as it started at 8 o'clock. Like a knife would fly to a magnet, I was immediately pulled into the gym upon entering the building when I heard a live jazz combo playing for the activity. I'm not sure why they were there, because the activity was advertised as a "MexicanFiesta", not "Big Band Dancing."

Just as I had promised her, there were two couples dancing on the floor, and about three guys standing off to the side. There was one boy in particular that I pointed out to her as being a prime example of these socially-challenged specimen. Gah! I'm terrible! Somebody please stop me.

Done. Before I could go on in my judgmental ways, this boy made a B-line for us, and asked me to dance. It wasn't a question though, for before I could answer he had taken my hand and dragged me out to the middle of the gym. What followed was one of the most humbling, embarassing, and yet hilarious moments of my life. And sadly, only three guys and Eden were there to see it.

I had no idea how to dance with this kid. He didn't say a word to me the whole time.
"What's your name?"
"Uh..what am I supposed to do?"
(I collide with him as he tries to spin around me or something)
"Oh! My bad! I'm sorry, I'm really bad at this."
Not even a smile.
(I continue to fail at trying to be smooth about this)
No reaction.

It was awful, but everytime I looked over and saw the look on Eden's face, I had to laugh at myself. Even still, this kid had not showered in who knows when, and so I looked over at the band with a look of "Please. Just stop playing." By some miracle, it worked. The last note came, and I left.

This would be a good place to end, wouldn't it? Well, too bad. The point of this post has not been presented yet. We're getting there though, I promise.

Being Friday as it was, and finding myself alone back at the apartment, I actually wandered back to the institute building. The Jazz music was pretty good, and I wanted to hear more of it. That was all I wanted though. It's funny- I often complain about being alone even when I am surrounded by others. Here was my chance to meet people even though I was alone for the chance to make friends and avoid loneliness in the future. And yet, I didn't want to talk to anybody. I wanted to get lost in the music, and not be bothered with random, 'Would you like to dance?'s and subsequent small talk. I was terrified at the thought of such things. (For those of you who know me, my dance anxiety had very much kicked in at this point.)

So, my question now was how do I listen and watch the music without having to talk to anybody? We saw how well being a wall-flower had worked out for me with Eden. To my relief, I snooped around and found a little curtained room up above the gym and stage. You can see everything going on down below and not be noticed if you peer through those curtains. So, I ran to the snack table, hoarded as many chips with salsa (Ah. We now see why it was advertised as Mexican Fiesta. Clever, eh?) and trailmix as I could carry, and ran up to my secret spot to enjoy the show by myself. I did embark on a few dangerous missions back to the snack table for lemonade and refills, but I slipped back and forth almost unnoticed.

I spent the next two hours overlooking local musicians, watching people having fun and dancing, and eating chips and salsa like there was no tomorrow. During the intermission, I did go down to compliment the band and request that they play Blue Bossa (which took them by surprise. Blue Bossa? Who would request that? A jazz major. They were afraid of that. But that's a post for another day.)

As the activity drew closer to ending, I couldn't take it anymore. You may think, based on my behavior that I've told you about, that I don't like being around people. That I enjoy being alone, and antisocial. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I hate it. I long to be outgoing and friendly. I yearned for someone or ones to be with and dance with. For some reason, there is a barrier there that I can not seem to master. I chicken out everytime. You'd think that chickening out would be the more comfortable route, but it's not at all. It's kind of like an endothermic reaction requiring a high activation energy: Before the reaction occurs, you're at a state that's lower than where you want to end up, but there's a huge hump to get over that requires a lot of energy to spark. Very rarely can I get over that hump, so I stay down low in the dumps instead. That, world, is why Brittany has a hard time with dances.

As I said, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to dance. But I couldn't go down to the gym! I couldn't dance there alone, but dancing with someone was impossible for me too. So, looking about me and finding a dark room occupied by no one but me and old chairs and risers just taking up space, I began to dance. It was great because no one could see me- not even me because it was dark. I danced, and I danced. I even pretended that I was dancing with someone else. Ridiculous? Pathetic? Perhaps so.

I learned something about myself that night. I'm no better off then those boys who show up to activities right on time. I don't even go, and it's not because I'm doing other things with other people. I have no one to go with, and I'm too afraid to go by myself. If I did have someone to go with, that would mean I would have a friend and I'm sure that if that happened, going to the institute activity wouldn't be on the agenda. At least those other guys/people try. They have more than I have, and I of all people have no room to judge them.


Nedge said...

Aw, Doyle!!! That story cracked me up big time. The sad thing is, I'm exactly like you (only I don't get asked to dance [looking back on stake dances...bleah.]) Anyhow, I think you and I should pick one of these institute gatherings (either in Logan or SLC) that we can both attend, and go together, and see if we can pull each other out of this muddy weird anti-social stuff.

Brittany said...

I very rarely got asked to dance at stake dances. Maybe...twice. That's okay though.

Nedge said...

Ha ha ha! I got asked once. By a kid that played the trombone in band. He was a ninth grader, I was an eighth grader, and we had no idea what the others' name was. He just knew me as the tuba player that didn't blow up the school and I knew him as one of the trombone players.

Nedge said...

Needless to say, it was awkward.

Joslynn said...

I can't BELIEVE you managed to slip chemistry into this.
Nicely done.

You already know my mixed feelings about the subject matter.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Brittany,

I can completely relate to your post. I often feel the same way - I want to socialise and have a great time, and yet there is something that holds me back. I love your endothermic analogy btw, it's so very apt. It's comforting to realise that I'm not the only one that feels this way. Thanks for an insightful and funny post. :)

Moonlight writer said...

Okay, so I'm not the only one who notices barriers. I just posted one about people and the natural barriers we throw up to avoid social interactions and possibly bad situations. Do you think this has somehow been manufactured, unintentionally perhaps? I link it to all the bad news today, conditioning us without our knowledge.

Nedge said...

You should write a new post sometime. I love your stories and insights. No matter what you think, you are an awesome writer.