Social anxiety is the name for that thing that makes me want to stay home a lot.
I stay home a lot.
I used to have a job at an office and I would go in every day, faithfully, dressed in my Office Casual, hanging with the people who thought Office Casual was getting dressed up, and eating the bagels, or donuts or whatever other unhealthy thing they brought in to share. Sometimes we had pot lucks and I would bring some food that was far out enough to make me seem interesting.
The "interesting" dish (that's Minnesota speak, meaning they didn't especially like it but were too polite to say they didn't like it) was usually something I thought bland enough to serve to people who thought Office Casual was dressed up. Somebody always asked for the recipe.
The job at the office allowed me to feel like less of a freak. I went to a place. Every day I went to a place. I left my house. I did stuff. With people. Real people were there.
It didn't matter if, when I went home, I never wanted to leave that house again, because I had already left the house that day, to go to the office. I'd done my time abroad, and my reward was Home.
As I got promoted at the job, or took on other jobs within the company, the company rewarded me with Work At Home.
Work at home is a thing companies do to save money. It costs about $10,000 a year for them to have a space for you to sit at an office in a building somewhere and supply you with a roof and heat (or...the stuff they try to pass off as "heat" at offices...you know how it is. Everyone is freezing), so they say, "Hey! How would you like to work at home? It's great! You don't have to leave the house!"
And we're all, "Heck yeah, give me that! The heat at my house works, unlike this dump!"
Work at home? It's fucking great. No question. Sitting in my jammies, slippers on, dissecting a some words or some code? Dream gig, all day. Just having good coffee makes it worth it.
(The Oatmeal wrote the best comic about working at home. Go read it.)
It's just dangerous to be someone like me AND be alone. All. The Damn. Time.
Even though I love it.
I have some friends who worry about me. They worry that I'm too isolated, and that I never get out of the house. (Of course, none of this translates to them wanting to go do the things I want to do, with me, outside of my house, but that's a bitch I'll save for another time.)
They're right. I don't go places. I get up, work my 8, go for a walk, happily goof off at home until I'm tired, then sleep.
Best. Schedule. Ever.
But they worry, so I make the effort. I agree to do stuff elsewhere.
Last night, I went to a bar. There was music I wanted to see, and that's where the musicians were. Since my friends, who worry that I never go out, never want to go out with me, I went with my ultimate favorite person: Me.
My strategy was to sit at the bar instead of a table, so it was less obvious that I was alone, and make non-committal conversation with the bartender, whom I hoped would be too busy to talk, then sit and watch musicians play and sing songs.
I did exactly that. Bartender was busy. Musicians were great.
I still spent the entire time feeling incredibly awkward and wishing I was home.
The fact that the bartender was cute and charming was no help at all. Quite the opposite, actually--I actually *wanted* to talk to him--that's the kind of person I envision as a desirable friend--but I sound idiotic when I try to have even minimal conversation with someone I don't know very well.
Oh, I could perform for that person, all day, and be fine--I am a presenter, after all. But outside of presenting, I'm pretty boring.
When faced with situations that are scary to me, I always tell myself, "Fuck it, it's not like any of these people will ever see you again. You live in a big city, and there are plenty out there less appealing than you. Just look at all the awful people out there, perfectly comfortable imposing themselves upon the world. Your excuses are bullshit."
These statements are totally true, and they get me out the door. I wish they carried me though conversations with cute bartenders.
Truth is, we're all presenters. We do our little shows for people we barely know, on social media, or at work, or at the bar. We dress a certain way for a reason, we do our hair a certain way for a reason, we wear a certain perfume for a reason, or carry a particular handbag. It's all a part of a lifelong gig. Home is the only place we have a break from it. Home is all-day bed head and slippers.
And the perfume.
Perfume knows that it doesn't matter if you look like shit, as long as you don't smell like shit.
When you've worked in the media for any length of time, you know how much preparation it takes to be good at presenting, be it on the radio, or at some work training, or bullshitting your way through an interview (nobody good at bullshitting doesn't prepare. Look at the Republican nominee. Worst bullshitter, ever.). When I was in radio, I would take the 4 minutes a song was playing to write the 20 seconds worth of words I would say after the song got done. Every time. That's how all media is--the proportion of prep to presenting is dramatically lopsided.
There really is no way to prep for encounters you don't know will happen, like, oh, for example, there's a charming person you'd like to talk to. That's why it's all so stressful to me.
I'll keep trying, though I doubt I'll ever develop the skill of 'winging it'. I've taught myself more complicated things. I've forced myself to quit smoking, after all--how tough can this be by comparison?
Besides, it's not like I'll ever see these people again.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Saturday mornings in the Fall.
That's when I miss you. That's when I miss us.
Before the kids were awake, you would bring me coffee, or I would bring you coffee, and we would lie on the bed in our room, enjoying the quiet.
You'd be wearing that green fleece and jeans and I would wear jeans and a Henley I stole from you.
I still have it. Today may be too emotional to put it on, though. It doesn't smell like you anymore, and it hasn't for years, but, it's still yours.
You died in the Fall, on October 11. We were apart when it happened and everything that led up to my last years with you was awful. I don't regret leaving, though. Had I been there when it happened, I might be getting more sympathy from people as a widow, but that wouldn't make my life any better than I've been able to make it without you.
As it was, people questioned the sincerity of my tears.
Fuck those people.
They weren't there on those Saturday mornings.
You with a book and me with my knitting.
We created chore lists (gleefully, for the purposes of antagonizing the children) and shopping lists for the home improvement store, because Saturday mornings turned into Saturdays, and there was work to be done.
It's been 8 years since we lived together, and four that you've been gone, but a full nine years have passed since we spent a cool autumn morning together, tucked in our room at the little house on Superior Street, with the dog shoehorned between us.
How could it have been so long ago?
It feels like today.
The Minnesota air smells of Fall, there are chores to do, and I am making a list; only now, the children are grown and I can't conspire against them by making them rake, or mow, or pick up dog poop from the back yard.
That's OK--it was only fun when we did it together.
Besides...maybe I enjoyed it a little too much when you would wake them and they would grumble and you would laugh that laugh of yours that everyone loved. I think it was that laugh that made them forgive you for being such a slaver-driver of a dad. It bought you a lot of forgiveness from all of us.
I know they miss you more than I. Perhaps they miss you on different mornings, or every morning, but for me it's always a Saturday, and always in the Fall.
That's when we were our best Us.
The Us that draws my tears this morning.
If you were still alive, I'd be calling you, again, to say it was all a huge mistake and we should get back together.
I'm glad I can't.
You can have this Saturday, Mr. Payne.
Today, you can have me.
Today, I'll be your widow.
Tomorrow, I have to be me again.
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Today was monumental in that I put on makeup and nice clothes, did my hair and met someone for lunch. I even wore girl shoes.
Wow, I look super stoned.
I wasn't. I just look like that.
The other day my new boss asked me for a photo to put with my bio on some company website and I spent half the day trying not to look wasted in a selfie.
You would think this would be easy to do in the middle of a work day.
My eyes don't open, or something. Fuck, I don't know. When I smile they snap shut. "It's cute," people say. Cute that my eyes just completely disappear. Cuuuuuute!
I produced a super dorky, eyes-sort-of-open, glasses on, girl-in-work-mode thing. Then I fixed it in Photoshop because of course I can't stand any pictures of myself.
At least I didn't have to Photoshop 30 pounds off of me like I did with my Maui vacation pics. By the way, I need to go back and take more pictures, now that I'm mostly OK to look at. I'll do a bunch of bad selfies while standing on some cliff's edge, or under a palm tree, and claim the squinting is due to the sun and not the Maui Wowie. Who would know? Honestly, one could assume I've been hitting the jellies while looking at virtually any photo of me showing teeth.
I tried to take an "eyes open AND smiling" pic for this blog to see if I could do it.
"Maniacal," is the word that comes to mind.
Better stick with cute.