As we entered the living/family room, my boss offered us a drink. He then looked at me and said the strangest thing:
Relax Drew, were all friends here. Youre going to have a great time.
Sort of an odd thing to say, but he does know how quiet I am most of the time. Maybe he saw something in my face that I didnt think was noticeable (fear?). Anyway, my face got a little redder after that comment. I suppose people dont mean any harm with their comments, but I tend to take things too seriously. I started feeling like there was something wrong with me. I was looking forward to a drink or two just to take the edge off.
Now, some habits are hard to break, and I had a few that just wouldnt take no for an answer. As usual, my automatic thoughts were to get a drink and find a safe spot where I could linger throughout most of the party. Hopefully, I could find someone who didnt make me feel uncomfortable, and start up a conversation with them.
Who was I kidding? My motives were a little less honourable than that. I needed to find someone I could talk to because I didnt want to draw any attention to myself. If I was conversing with someone, things would appear normal. In a sense, I was using them.
The problem was that I would stay and milk every last minute I could – never mingling – never moving from that one spot – talking someones ear off about everything and anything – preventing them from mingling also. Some would stay out of politeness, others, with more social experience, excused themselves in a very polite manner.
I was determined to break those old habits. And though the urge to take my drink and shrink into a corner was almost overpowering, I thanked my boss for the beer, lifted my head, and looked around the room. My two friends were still with me, so the urge to just stay put and go for the safe thing was strong – I resisted it.
Dont get me wrong, I really did want to hang out with these two. They were fun, and I felt at ease with them. But, I was on a mission. I would not be taking the easy way out this time.
The three of us stood around talking for a while, but I was a little distracted to be honest. I was surveying the room – trying to get a better handle on the groups of people, and how hard it would be to mingle with some of them. My heart was pounding.
After the first beer, I decided that I would make a move and I excused myself to find the washroom. When I entered the living room again, I noticed that my two friends were now talking to three other people (two men and one woman). I signalled to them that I would just be a minute, and I went to find another beer.
That would have been a perfect opportunity. I could have eased into the conversation and, because my friends were present, much of the anxiety would be gone. But, for some reason, I just couldnt bring myself to walking over there and being introduced to new people. Its the introductions I hate the most. Its at the moment of introduction that I feel under scrutiny and most vulnerable – and I hate that. Why? Well, because I want to make a good first impression – scratch that – a perfect impression.
So, what was the answer? Drink myself into oblivion? Find someone I could corner and bore to death? Well, none of the above, to be honest. I knew what I had to do. Sure, it would require a huge effort, but that was on my list anyway.
I entered the room again, only to find my friends gone. The group of three strangers were still there, however. I decided that a good ice-breaker would be to wonder over and ask if they knew where my friends were.
No pain, no gain. I sucked it up and went over to where they were standing. In a shaking voice (I convinced myself it wasnt noticeable to anyone), I asked if they had seen the two people that had been standing there, and they pointed them out at the other end of the room; they were getting some food.
I dont know what I expected, really. They didnt seem overly friendly to me as one of the men talked, and the other two looked at me as if I had a third eye. I tried my best to smile and appear friendly, but they returned nothing but a cold expression. I sensed that they didnt like me, but how could that be? After all, they didnt even know me.
My face was getting redder by the minute. I thanked them, and they continued to talk amongst themselves as if I wasnt there at all. How did my co-workers start a conversation with this group? Not only a conversation, but what appeared to be a warm, friendly conversation. Though they had nothing to say to me, they had plenty to say to my friends earlier. These people were laughing and joking as if they were old school chums. I doubt that they knew each other at all.
I walked away feeling like an alien. There really was something wrong with me – there was the proof.