The brunch had been scheduled to happen on a Sunday morning while Josh was on tour. That was just fine with me, in fact, it was perfect. I like my social gatherings to happen while he's going to be gone anyway, so that I don't have to choose between the gathering and spending time with him. But then it got postponed to the first Sunday he was back. That was less than ideal, but I said I would be there anyway.
The night before the brunch, I was filled with dread. Why would I want to go hang out with a bunch of people when I could stay home with the one person I like most in the whole world? That's not fair to the brunch ladies. I knew most of them and liked the ones I knew. It was not a dislike of them that filled me with dread. It's just that socializing makes me so tired. Thinking about it makes me tired, too. I have to make myself do it, because I've analyzed the data, and I've decided that it's good for me. Sometimes I have fun and sometimes I don't, but it's become clear that I need to have friends that are not Josh.
So I make myself be social. It's so stupid. Why should I have to make myself go out and do fun things with fun people? I have no complaints about the women that I have met through meetups. With few exceptions, they have been smart, funny, interesting people. I've been to enough events that I can pick out which ones will be the ones I'll enjoy rather than the ones where it's all awkward get-to-know-you conversation. It's not them, it is all me.
I knew enough people at the brunch to be a part of the conversations. I ate the food and drank the coffee and mimosas. There were boys there - three of them. I had thought about asking Katie, the hostess, whether I could bring Josh along. But then I didn't want to be that woman who always has to have her man with her. Plus, I knew I'd spend my time talking to him.
Then the board games came out - Cranium, something called Loaded Questions, and Taboo. I like Taboo. I've had good times playing Taboo. I've played Cranium only once before and did not particularly like it. It's trying to be all kinds of games at once - Pictionary, Charades, and Trivial Pursuit. Loaded Questions advertised itself as being "for adults," and I was concerned that it would involve answering personal questions. There just wasn't enough champagne to make enough mimosas for me to be willing to share openly with people that I don't know very well at all. Whereas I do a reasonably good job faking my way through most social situations, that was one where I was going to be sitting by myself in the corner.
We played Cranium. I was so relieved that it was not Loaded Questions that I didn't mind.
The group that was playing was sitting in a circle on the floor, while a few people like me were on the perimeter. I realized that other people were choosing to opt out. I considered my options. I could also sit back and watch, but I imagined that turning into me sitting back and looking out the window or sitting back and browsing the internet on my phone. I'd driven all the way to Durham to come to this, for my own good, and so I was going to participate.
Katie, who was throwing the brunch, said she would be my partner. She and I are not particularly close, but she is probably my one friend in Raleigh. I set out to make new friends by going to meetups, and I made one. This is progress. I was grateful to her for volunteering to be my partner, even if I could see she was trying to get people to play. She was helping me, and while I felt embarrassed that this was necessary, I was also touched. It's a shame that a twenty-eight-year-old woman needs to be personally invited to play a board game, but at the same time, oh-my-goodness-thank-heavens-katie-wants-to-be-my-partner.
When it was our turn, our card came up as a Charades game. We had to decide who would act and who would guess. Katie volunteered to perform, saying that it was a job for the extrovert on our team. She did an impersonation of Fonzie, and after four guesses (Fonzie, Arthur Fonzarelli, Henry Winkler, The Fonz), I finally picked the specific wording that was on the card. Everyone was impressed by my knowledge of The Fonz.
As the game went on, I started feeling like I wanted, no, needed to leave. This is a feeling I'm very familiar with. I just feel very strongly like I need to get out of there. It's almost like sensing danger. It's not quite at fight or flight levels, but everything is colored by a vague urge to be away from wherever I am or else (or else what?). Away from people. I have no idea how others perceive me, but inside I'm anxious and twitchy: need to leave, need to leave, need to leave. Even when I'm having a lot of fun, that feeling comes on. I don't know how to predict it or make it go away. It's like I hit a wall, where suddenly I can socialize no more.
It used to be a huge problem at Josh's shows. I would hit my wall, but I would have to stay because the show wasn't over or the equipment wasn't packed or Josh wanted to hang out with his friends. I even learned how to dismantle and pack up the drum kit so I could leave more quickly. It took a while for me to realize that I was the problem. Aside from being sort of aloof and sullen, I was making Josh miserable, too. I have made great strides in this. I still hit the wall, but I don't make my boyfriend miserable anymore. That bar is so low that it's depressing to admit how much of an improvement it is.
I have no concept of how common these feelings are. My impression has always been that it's just me, because everyone else seems to be having fun. They could be faking it, too. After I got home from the brunch, I told Josh about my wall. He knew exactly what I was talking about; turns out he has one, too. Apparently what I've always thought of as "my wall" is more commonly called "being an introvert." Maybe the reason I never see anyone else feeling that way is because all the other introverts just stayed home.
I thought about what Katie said about being the extrovert. I was surprised to find that a.) she is an extrovert, and b.) it's glaringly obvious that I am not. I wonder what gave me away (no, really, I do). I'm always surprised to meet people like her. They're so foreign to me that I don't really believe they exist. Once I met another one at a dinner meetup. It was her very first meetup, and about halfway through, she said to me, "This is just another one of those times when I meet a bunch of people and I immediately feel like we've all been best friends for years. You know?" And I was flabbergasted. That had never, ever, ever (ever!) happened to me. Is that what it's like to be an extrovert? I have so little concept of what it must be like that I can't even tell whether it would be a good thing.
It was appropriate that Katie would be the acting half of the Charades team. To me, socializing is performing. I can't tell whether the extroverts don't feel that way or if that's what they like about it. I've always felt like I couldn't really relax and be myself except with a few people that I know very well. I am myself, but sort of a lesser version. Sandra Lite, if you will. It's exhausting being someone else, even if that person is a subset of yourself.
For the most part, I don't mind being an introvert. But I recognize that there are times when I will have to remain in the company of other people long after I've hit the wall. I would like to not be miserable for no reason. Having reached my socialization quota is not one. If having a wall is common, has anyone figured out how to scale it?