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.