“When it comes to friendship, some people value quantity over quality. I’m not into that. I know and speak to a lot of people, sure, and I value those relationships, but if we’re able to move past the small-talk phase and really become friends, it lasts forever. That is so much more valuable to me than knowing 1000 people in every area code. I love that when I see my friends, we pick up right where we left off. Deep, reflective friendships infused with magic and positivity: that’s what I cherish.
I used to go out every night, but the older I get, the less I want to do that. For a few years, I’ve regarded this change as a kind of flaw — like I “should” be going out all the time, flitting around, being super-social. But that’s not who I am anymore, and I would rather see a couple of people a week — and have a truly meaningful interaction with them — than have the same conversation a million times a night. Of course, I love to go out and meet new people, but it feels like less of a “need” these days. I’m working on accepting that, and learning that that’s okay.”— Gala Darling
In addition to being bloggers and city-loving chicks who march to the beat of a slightly different drummer (perhaps with a 1980′s goth track to go along with the drummer, Gala and I share a number of things as people. We’re the same Meyers-Briggs type. We share an Enneagram number. We even have compatible astrological signs. We both struggle with a number of the same issues, have some of the same stories to tell about our earlier years, and know a number of the same people. So, when she happens to express something that’s close to precisely how I’m feeling about my life, there’s this moment of synchronicity that says: Oh yeah. That. There’s another slightly crazy human being out there who thinks the same way I do most of the time, but in this instance, said it better.
For those who don’t know, in addition to being a freelance writer and blogger, I run a social group in the Atlanta area. Prior to that, I was on the “board of directors” (and I use that term loosely, because there was absolutely no “direction”) of another social group, which unceremoniously kicked me out due to the generally scandalous nature of my life and the uninhibited adventures that will probably ensue if you know me well enough. Of course, the truth is, there happened to be a few people who didn’t like me very much, and it took them a long time to get rid of me. They had to try REALLY hard. So, in the spirit of “I have little respect for any club that would have me as a member”, when a friend I met via that group called me to ask me to take over his social group, I pretty much laughed in his face. Well, I laughed at his phone, but he got the idea. Why in the world would I put myself through that nonsense again?
It turned out to be the best thing that ever could have happened, when he finally talked me into it. It was really kind of a swap; I lived in his apartment, which meant I moved out of my ex’s apartment, until his lease was up. In return, his group was in good hands. I made not only new friends, but people who have been through stuff with me for the past 6 years. I met two roommates, a few romantic entanglements, some really wonderful friends, and the Guy I Am Currently Dating. Saying “yes” to doing something I’d just done and failed at so miserably that it destroyed any sense of peace and stability in life actually helped me rebuild my life at its lowest point, which is quite ironic. (I think. I’m never sure what’s REALLY ironic. Thanks, Alanis.)
In the almost 6 years I’ve run the group, I’ve planned over 300 events for members, and many, many more for my circle of friends. Something that started out with 350 members now has over 1800 members. Couples have met, moved in together, gotten married. It’s been a relatively good thing.
Yet, sometimes, it’s exhausting and I feel like I am simply too old for being in charge of entertaining strangers. Other times, I feel ill-equipped to run a social group; I’m not terribly organized, I’m not always social, I speak my mind in a way that isn’t what one thinks of as “proper”, and, let’s be honest, I’m an extrovert who isn’t always terribly fond of people. I have literally thousands of acquaintances, but I’m very choosy about my friends. Out of every 100 people I meet, I’ll find one with whom I really connect and will build a strong friendship.
Maybe it’s because I’m not out there looking to get drunk and hook up, two of the major past-times in any social group. I left all that craziness behind years ago, probably due to this process I like to call “growing up”. Unfortunately, when I see people who haven’t completed that process (and from what I observe, the process may start all over again once you hit 45.), I’ve found I grow more and more impatient. People that others are amused by based on charm and style have suddenly become those I want to strangle, and be like “Why aren’t you a substantial and intelligent person? And if you are, why don’t you show it?” Back in the day, those were the people I’d date. You can make up for a lack of any personal attribute with charisma, and I know that as well as anyone, so it annoys me that I am the person who now sees through that veneer. People have become more transparent to me over the past few years, and I’ve become remarkably less willing to spend time with someone not really out there looking to connect in any sort of meaningful way.
I used to be a bit of a snob, or as an old friend put it back in the day, “aloof”. It’s an odd quality for an extroverted personality, but the truth is, I read people well enough most of the time to know that I don’t want to know everyone. I want to create an atmosphere where other people will get to know those who are right for them, but I don’t have interest in being everyone’s new best friend. I don’t go to events seeking new kindred spirits, lifelong friends, or romantic connections. I never really have. I’m just me, and if I find that, I do. If I don’t, it’s not going to ruin my enjoyment of life.
These days, my impatience with people who come across in a way that’s obnoxious, creepy, or designed to be charming but is transparently fake kind of makes me a bitch. It’s not the best asset in a person who is supposed to radiate love and joy and that crap at all times.
It’s also become more difficult for me to hide my emotions, and keep the pieces of myself that aren’t all that loveable or appropriate for basic social interaction hidden. For instance, yesterday, I was upset because my telephone broke. The Guy I Am Currently Dating came over with a replacement, and I asked if we could do the phone thing later because the process of getting ready to go out and coordinate a large event is stressful enough for someone dealing with anxiety. He said that I didn’t have to do anything, because he would look at it. It turns out, my phone broke because I misunderstood the ambiguous instructions on the battery and damaged it, and was a complete idiot. Then, to add to my stress, he got mad and yelled at me because I was not apologetic about breaking the battery and it “didn’t seem like I cared”. A huge argument ensued, where for the 50th time, I had an emotional breakdown about dating someone who seems to expect a different way of dealing with the world and higher level of perfectionism than I can handle.
I was sobbing, and couldn’t talk, and trying not to ruin my makeup…but I didn’t want to host an event for strangers. I didn’t want to have to put on a smile and make small talk about life and be the cheerful hostess. I would have been a lousy 1950′s housewife. So often, I have to totally get rid of any evidence that I can’t handle my life and have been known to spend hours in bed wishing myself out of existence. And then there’s always one person in the group who doesn’t like me because I’m loud or snarky or not always perky and happy, or writes a bad review because the event was boring, the venue sucked, or there weren’t any good-looking single people in attendance. (totally not my responsibility.) It’s often a reminder, again, of all the ways I am just not good enough, no matter how hard I try.
Sometimes, I think of that old song with the lyrics, “Smile, though your heart is aching; smile, even though it’s breaking.”
And then there’s the matter of the pictures. I take a lot of pictures, and I share them with the world, because, one day, I will be a cold dead corpse somewhere and I’d like people to remember the lively version of me. I don’t take photos out of vanity, and I don’t use them to present a certain “image”. I actually get quite frustrated with people who say “Can you not publish this because I look bad?” and “Can you not publish this because so-and-so might see it?” and “This picture makes me feel like if others see it I’ll be judged”. I feel like I’m living in a world where I’m the only one out there who didn’t drink the Kool-Aid. I don’t care if people see me drinking, doing something embarrassing, hanging out somewhere, or looking like an idiot. Those are all aspects of me, things I’ve done, and I’m generally ashamed of very little. I don’t care if I look unattractive, or I’m posing with a whip or dancing in a cage. I’ve sent pictures of me dancing in a cage in a see-through top to my mother. She thought I looked cute.
Today, I got a very abrupt message from a friend that said “Hi. Some of the pictures you’re posting do not belong on Facebook.”
In my opinion, my life belongs on Facebook, so when someone sends me a judgement, it immediately makes me angry. However, I very nicely replied that if she had issues with any photos, she could politely ask me to remove them. One person’s judgment regarding what I post may be different from mine, and I can’t help but feel it’s certainly not appropriate to judge my actions by your standards. I judge my actions by my standards. (and there was nothing even slightly offensive on there. I actually removed a lot of photos that didn’t seem the most appropriate thing to post, in my opinion, and edited others.) She did then ask, and I removed them, but really….at this point, I’m just exhausted.
I spend so much time trying to make other people happy, and it is (excuse the undignified language) NEVER FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH. There is always someone unhappy with me, all the time, despite the fact I spend a lot of my time investing in other people. There’s always some imperfection, something wrong with me and how I see the world that’s worthy of criticism.
So, I get it. I suck. I will never be good enough for most people, most of the time. That’s why I will probably die single and alone, and never, ever get romantically attached to a person who genuinely loves me, sees a future with me, is compatible with me, and can avoid lying/cheating/being a douchebag all at the same time. That’s why I don’t have many friends, I just know a lot of people.
And that’s why, most of the time, it’s easier and less emotionally exhausting just to stay home. I don’t make myself feel badly about being me, I’m perfectly comfortable with my blunt and open lifestyle, I don’t make racist or misogynistic comments, I don’t think I’m a sucky person to date, I don’t beat myself up when I make mistakes or wonder why I’m just that damned stupid, and I don’t go through phases where other people and things cause me to become emotionally and practically unavailable to myself. In addition, I find myself somewhat attractive, even if I’m old and fat and boring. I like all the same TV shows and bands as myself, and find myself to be an entertaining drinking companion.
So, yes, as Gala noted on her blog, the older I get, the less I feel like going out or dealing with people. Because, no matter what you do, people only seem to notice all the ways in which you’re not perfect or even likeable…and for someone to whom that’s quite important, handling that can be difficult. Feeling underappreciated and misunderstood is hard.
Fortunately, I get me, and I have a ton of books and TV shows I like. This must be what makes people want to become introverts.
When it’s just you that you need to worry about making happy, being perfect isn’t quite so necessary.