I’ll admit I was late to develop social skills.  In fact my teen years were pretty much characterized by clumsy, blush-inducing contacts with my peers.  I can run but I can’t hide.  It comes back to bite me on the ass at the most unwelcome of times.

Today.  Sister’s new boyfriend.  I just lost any semblance of cool, on the inside at least.  I’ve met the guy a handful of times, but always quite brief “alright, how’s it going?” exchanges.  They’ve been fine.  Then someone put the nail in the coffin for me, one of my sister’s friends, when they gushed about how good looking he was (from his photographs) and how she’ll be all stammery when she meets him because ‘ I get all embarrassed when I talk to good looking men’.  After she said that I thought ‘shit.  Now she’s made an issue out of it I’ll be all self-conscious that he’s buff and grrr and *wolf whistle*.  I hadn’t really noticed before, probably because I don’t really see anyone my sister dates as an entity in themselves.  They are just ‘her boyfriend’.

Anyway, he came over to ours tonight.  He doesn’t usually, which has made me think he doesn’t really like me for some reason.  This has caused me a fair few ponderings on if that is the case, why it might be and other self-analyzing drivel.  That to one side though.

Tonight I felt like sixteen year old me again.  It’s not that I’m attracted to him.  It was just knowing he could be considered in the ‘very attractive’ league made me very nervy.  Ever since I decided it wasn’t a good idea to avoid every human being for the rest of my life (around the age of 20), I had to develop coping mechanisms for interacting with people.  One of these is being quite aloof until I’m comfortable with someone.  I’ll be friendly, but it’s a restrained geniality, rather than the more endearing Andrex puppy type.  The more threatened or wary I feel, the more off-hand I am with people.

Up until now I’ve carried off the mild-mannered friendliness pretty well, at least I think I have.  Tonight I got flustered.  My sister’s friend’s words rocked around my skull “This man is attractive! This man is attractive!  This man is attractive!”  It blasted round my head like a demented pin ball and quickly reduced me to teen gaucheness.

I ran around the kitchen while he stood, leaning, against a cupboard, all muscly and attractive.  Damn! that girl for putting this into my head.  My heart went racy, I talked about food I was looking for.  I talked too fast.  I opened cupboards maniacally, exclaiming that I was in need of a snack, not sure what, savoury I think, but, hmm, maybe chocolate, and couldn’t decide and then he was all ‘do you want one of these biscuits’ and I was all high-pitched ‘oooh no, I’ve had lots of cake today, can’t have those’ and then I realise I’ve never accepted food from him the few times he’s been at ours with food and if he doesn’t like me, that could be why, and so I’m like ‘oh, okay may as well’ and take a biscuit that I can’t nudge out of the packet because my fingers are all sweaty and anxious.  I say several really silly things before leaving the room.

The thing is I know I do this and I know there’s no point.  Getting anxious, I mean.  And, by and large, I’ve overcome the worst of it.  When people get to know me I’m myself and that’s fine.  But if I do get anxious around new people, I then also get anxious about being anxious, then I say daft things, or possibly off-hand things, depending who and where it is, then I worry about what I’ve just said.

The end result here is that now I have to retract any damage by being less of a garbly moron next time I see him.  That or avoid him.  And, in correspondence with the aforementioned policy of not avoiding ever speaking to human beings ever again, the second option is out.

So I suppose I’ll always have this Social Anxiety within me to some extent.  The positive I can take from it is that I now know that avoidance is misguided.  I know that if I can learn not to care as much what impression I’m making on people, the result will be better relationships.  And if I’m off-hand with people it’s usually because I’m feeling insecure and I somehow have come to associate making people uncomfortable in my presence with taking my power back.  This off-handedness isn’t intentional though; it’s more a distance I create until I’m comfortable letting a person ‘see’ me.

What I haven’t mastered yet, as tonight has emphasized, is how to feel anxious and appear anxious without hating myself for betraying my anxiety to another person.

I actually don’t know for sure how I came across.  I just felt like an idiot.  I guess that’s why I feel more comfortable when it’s obvious that someone is trying to befriend me, rather than the other way around.  I also get annoyed with myself for feeling like this.  He should be trying to get me on side, not the other way around.

I must go to bed now and get some rest so that I’m fresh for more embarrassing scenarios tomorrow.  I thought I’d post this because I don’t often post about Social Anxiety.  The reason I don’t mention it much is, firstly, because it’s much less of an issue now and only kicks up in very specific circumstances.  Secondly, I find that if I attach myself to that label it actually increases the idea that I will be anxious in a given situation.


4 thoughts on “Gauche

  1. I always thought everyone was anxious around new people? I find I have an irritating habit of not being able to walk properly – my legs get tangled. However, the years do slowly help form disguising strategies.

    I enjoyed reading this. It’s made me realise that while I can be thoroughly relaxed with people whose opinion I don’t care for, I have to be a dissembler with those I do. I knew that already, of course, I suppose. But I’ve never stated it plainly to myself, let alone other people.

    Oh well, take care, Dx

    • Hi D,

      yeah I think everyone is anxious around new people to some extent, but maybe they don’t do a cringey analysis afterwards, which then perpetuates the anxiety. Or perhaps I’ve read too many leaflets on anxiety :p

  2. Hey Louise,

    I think alot of people act the way you do around new people. I certainly recognise in myself that I do the same anxious things. Especially if I’ve thought about it before the encounter I am sure to be anxious. Everybody has a ‘front’ that they show to the world in order to appear confident to peers. I think that depression and social anxiety ruins the mechanisms that kept the front in place and that thinking about maintaining the front makes us flustered. I think with more time around people you will slowly build that front up again to be effortless.

    Hope you having a good start to the year,


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