In writing, I sound confident, I carry on light-hearted banter, I can engage in conversation with someone new without being self-conscious (no worrying that my dress adds ten pounds, wondering if I have food in my teeth, monitoring my speech to omit filler words and mentally berating myself for wasting brain activity on such trivial matters.) I prefer email over phone calls because in an email, I can rearrange, delete and edit until I’ve created a message that won’t keep me up at night wondering “why did I say that?” On paper, I can be quite chatty– even witty at times.
Too bad this alter-ego isn’t the real me. The real-life me never approaches a group of people in conversation, unless I have a friend with me (thankfully, I can take a restroom break solo, so I’m not completely dependent.) I worry about saying something embarrassing when talking to someone new, because it usually happens (probably because I worry so much about it, it can’t help but become a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
Small talk is awkward for me, due in large part to the fact that, in most cases, I’d rather not be talking. The real-life me easily gets excited and celebrates when something good happens to a friend, but struggles for words when comfort is needed (the fear of saying something dumb, again.) Oh, and I almost always forget a name because my brain works so hard to filter out idiocy, that it can’t retain pertinent information.
Lest you think I’m hypersensitive and my social ineptness is merely an augmented figment of my imagination, I will cite examples some of my experiences.
- My mother-in-law was upset and crying over something someone else did/said. All I could offer was a box of tissues and a stiff hug from two scrawny arms. No brilliant words of comfort could be found. All I could say was, “it’ll be okay.” What authority did I have to know this? (Um, none.)
Here’s what the writing me might have said/done: After I handed her the tissue, I wrapped my arms around her, and said, “I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way.” If she insisted that he did, then I would’ve said, “You know, he’s not even worth the tears. I think a couple hours at the casino with his money just might make you feel better.” And then I would’ve sent my husband to the casino with his mom (and I would have curled up by the fireplace to read a book, since someone had to stay home with the kids.)
- At a funeral, I saw a relative whom I hadn’t seen for many years. We were standing in front of the open casket, and, after a brief hug, I said, “It’s good to see you again. How are you doing?” (The startled look seemed to ask, ‘how do you think I’m doing?’) Maybe this would’ve been a more appropriate greeting at a cocktail party, right? At least my parting words weren’t “see you at the next wedding or funeral.”
Here’s what the writing me might have said/done: After a brief hug, I’d say, “It’s good to see you after all these years. I wish it would’ve been under happier circumstances, though.”
- A woman said “hi” to me in the grocery store and talked to me like she knew me. She looked somewhat familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember who she was. After a minute of superficial conversation, she asked, “you don’t remember me, do you?” I felt my cheeks flush, but I couldn’t lie, I said, “I’m sorry, no.” It turns out I went to church with her several years ago. In my defense, she wasn’t wearing a nametag in the grocery store that day.
Here’s what the writing me might have said/done: “Lisa?” (I would have remembered her name immediately) “You look great!”
She’d say, “Your son has gotten so big.”
Me: “Yeah, he’s all excited to start Kindergarten next year.”
<in real-life, there would be an awkward silence because neither of us would know what else to say and I’d regret heading down the cake mix aisle>
Her: “I haven’t seen you at church lately.”
Me: “We missed our old church and decided to go back.”
<in real-life, I would stammer and lament my decision to go grocery shopping>
Her: “Oh, well, I’m glad you like it.”
Me: “Thanks. It was great seeing you.”
<The real-life me and writing me would heave a sigh of relief because I didn’t blurt out that we went back to our old church because of her high-pressure tactics.>
Too bad I don’t have the opportunity to write carefully worded responses during my face-to-face social interactions. I guess that’s why I have a blog 🙂
Do you crave social gatherings or do you prefer written communication? Feel free to share any awkward moments from your own life (or make fun of mine, if you’re fortunate enough not to have any!)