When it comes to social situations, I often feel like one of those feral children who were raised by wolves. And while I do not sniff people’s butts as a form of greeting (anymore), I still find certain human social interactions and rituals quite confusing.
I know whence these feelings came. Growing up, our family was quite isolated socially. My parents had no friends (which makes me incredibly sad in retrospect) nor family that we ever socialized with. We never had company, nor did we ever go out. I simply never learned certain social niceties as a child. And while I have since learned how to behave in group social gatherings, it doesn’t feel natural. When placed in situations like parties I feel like a fish out of water – emotionally flopping about gasping for breath and desperate to get back to my own small, murky home.
For years I dealt with the anxiety of social situations the good old fashioned way – lots of alcohol. The alcohol eased my anxiety making it easier for me to get up the courage to talk to strangers and hopefully find someone I connected with. If I was lucky to find such a person, then you would find me in the corner with them having a “deep” conversation. I never was the girl with the lampshade on the head. I was not a silly, happy drunk, but rather a very intense one.
After I quit drinking and decided to actually treat my depression rather than self-medicate, I took a break from all parties and social events. The anxiety was simply too great. Even at on-site work parties that I would organize myself, I would find excuses to be elsewhere during the actual party. (That was during the period in my life where I would lay under my desk whenever I got too overwhelmed. That is, until my boss told me to knock it off because I was scaring the rest of the staff).
Eventually, there was a social event I really couldn’t refuse. It was a friend’s wedding and I knew she would feel very hurt if I didn’t show up. It was there that I realized that social situations are simply a fact of life, much like going to work. We don’t necessarily have to like it, but often, it is simply enough that we show up and not complain about it.
Over the years I have mastered the art of looking content at such gatherings. While I seldom have a what would be called a good time, I know how to act in such a way where I simply blend in. However, if the host has a pet, that’s usually where you’ll find me looking genuinely happy. I guess I’m happiest when I’m with my peeps – peeps who just happen to have four legs and fur.
Hmmm. Maybe I really was raised by wolves.