My eyes scanned the room crowded with party-goers chatting, dancing, laughing. Although we had congregated to surprise my daughter on her birthday, many of the guests were unknown to me. The sensation of being judged inconsequential overwhelms me in these situations. I plunged into and through the crowd straight to the back of the room before anyone could notice, grabbed a drink, and remained in the same spot for the rest of the evening.
This particular event was relatively safe. I wasn’t alone. My family was there. I am well-acquainted with many of my daughter’s friends, all of whom are wonderful people. And some of my own closest friends had joined us, making the evening pleasant and memorable. I have been in situations much more uncomfortable, in which case I clutch a drink to look as if I belong, and consume it to lower my inhibitions, making frequent trips to the restroom or lobby for a mental break.
Am I afraid of being ignored? Revealing my ignorance? Exposing my mediocre life? How do I start a conversation? This last worry stamps my hesitation to make casual phone calls, although once started, I have no difficulty keeping up a conversation.
Blessedly, those occasions are few. Now retired, I don’t have to make excuses to avoid so-called social events with work colleagues, which are the most awkward uncongenial gatherings. “Old age” justifies my retreat from sports events into a book if I attend at all. If I am uncomfortable at any get together, I go home.
I am thankful to Susan Cain and her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for allowing me to appreciate the introvert qualities. Although many people counter that everyone feels uncomfortable in group situations, I know that some of us find it more difficult than others. If not, why are these people throwing big parties?