Some Friday Ramblings
Do you ever just feel… tragically uncool?
I think there comes a time as you get older where you start to age out of popular culture and what’s considered “cool.” I have felt this way for a long time with music (my taste has always been more in line with my 70 year old father’s), but the sensation is percolating into other areas. Movies, TV, fashion trends! Of course there is that whole skinny jeans and side parts thing (so silly) but I just feel it so much these days. I am okay with it, I like the things I like, and those things don’t have to be popular. Heck, I don’t want to like all the things everyone else likes, that sounds boring. But the divide between what I love and what is trending only seems to be widening.
I read a book a couple weeks ago and a girlfriend laughed and said, “Oh I was certain that one would be too Gen Z for you!” She was correct. And don’t get me started on the fashion. This article! I can’t. All the nineties stuff that I wore back in high school. I have to imagine that this is how my mom felt, back in 1999 when all that I wanted was a pair of MUDD flare jeans and she cringed, remembering her seventies bell bottoms.
Speaking of uncool, one of my most embarrassing traits is that noise bothers me more and more.
This started in my mid thirties and has gotten worse with age. I think about going to the mall with my parents in high school and how they would wait outside of Abercrombie as it was too loud for them. If I had a kid today, I would be the same. I use the word “overstimulated” too much but it’s the only good word I have for it. If a place is too loud, or (maybe even worse) the table next to me is loud, I really struggle: I get distracted, I cannot focus on the conversation, my head starts to pound, it is awful.
Best case, I feel irritable. Worst case, I feel myself start to actually panic and need to leave. And then on top of that I also feel awful, because in addition to being bothered by the noise I am bothered with myself for being the un-fun friend who gets annoyed by such things. Usually I bite my tongue, sometimes I snap.
I’ve struggled with social anxiety for ages now but the pandemic made it even worse.
Saying that I am awkward is being kind. I sometimes just don’t know how to talk to people, especially new people, and even more in a large group. Over time I have figured out how to manage it. I have sneaky things I do that help me. When I get overwhelmed, I’ll sneak off to a bathroom or a quiet corner and just chill out a little.. usually closing my eyes for a little bit, scrolling Instagram as a distraction, or just sitting in the quiet.
Before an event or party I brush up on news and pop culture (usually a quick scroll of Air Mail, Us Weekly, and the New York Times gives me the perfect mashup of highbrow/lowbrow) and keep 3-4 topics in my head to discuss in case I get to that place where I feel like I am just staring awkwardly at the other person. If I know who is invited to the party, I will google them beforehand. Truly, I prepare for events the way that some people prepare for a test. (And that’s in addition to making myself look presentable… an entirely different endeavor all its own).
I had two really good social situations this past week. Both were things I was initially nervous about, both ended up being wonderful.
The first was the event I hosted with a brand last week.
Hosting events for brands is fun but also high pressure. I worry about my friends/the invitees having fun. I stress over the event details, wanting everything to be perfect (and something people will want to take photos of… after all, the success of most influencer events is measured by the level of social sharing!). Simultaneously, I worry about the brand being happy. Will enough people come? Will there be enough social sharing? Did I personally remember to take enough photos and post? Did I take videos and not just photos? How many glasses of wine have I had? I could go on with the list of worries.
This time around, my boyfriend was here visiting.
I wanted to bring him to the event (we had limited time together) and he wanted to come (he was genuinely so excited to see me in action for work which melted my heart a little). But how would he fare in a room full of 40 women? Would he have fun? Would it be considered lame to bring him? Or would he be a distraction? I just went with it and it was great. He already knew a good chunk of the attendees and is an extrovert and talked to everyone. He also helped me take photos and videos for Instagram, etc. which was really, really nice. It was honestly the best.
In reflecting back on the night, I realized I felt a lot less anxious than I usually do in social situations. I think that’s because I felt really supported having him there. This could be a whole other post but I have a feeling that this is why introverts and extroverts connect so well (everyone I’ve ever seriously dated has been an extrovert, I am more introverted!). The balance each other out nicely.
The other thing that happened was a friend’s party for Spoleto on Saturday night.
(Spoleto is Charleston’s big performing arts festival, this past weekend was the end of it). I was really nervous about this one. The only person I knew well was the host of the party. I knew he was going to be busy and didn’t want to lean on him too much. I did my usual things to prepare. Since it was an arts related event, I read up on the festival and who had performed that week. I had a few films and artists in my back pocket to talk about. I wore a dress with a cool design on it that was a conversation starter.
The night ended up being one of my top 5 or 10 nights in Charleston!
I talked to a group of girls I already knew and liked but wasn’t close with. Phone numbers were exchanged and I feel like we became better friends. I spotted a local gallery owner I like and admire and talked to her and her mother for a lot of the night. I bumped into a couple I’d met once and talked to them for hours. Then I had the most amazing conversation with an older woman (she turned out to be my friends’ neighbor!) who regaled me with stories of opening for Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix back in the day. I became friendly with the festival’s director of development and offered to volunteer next year. And then afterwards, the gallery owner, my friend (the host), and a few new friends closed things down with wine on the porch until waayyyy too late. It was so much fun.
In a way, my low expectations for the night (and being alone) pushed me to be more social and get out of my little bubble and comfort zone. I am not sure I would have had such a fun night (and met so many people) if I had gone with my usual group of friends. What’s the quote?
I always like to have a takeaway and I think that the takeaway is to just remember be more open and go with the flow. (Way easier said than done!)
For the work event, I would have typically preferred to go alone but had a better time because my bf was there. For the other event, I would have typically preferred to go with my usual crew but had a better time because I talked to new people and got out of my bubble. The thing you think you want may actually not be the thing you need. Life is funny like that.