On Inertia

We had a low-key engagement party this weekend. Just friends, no family, thank God.

I knew some of Michelle’s friends but I was meeting a lot of them for the first time and I have to tell you I don’t think I fared that well.

At first, I was pretty good making cocktail conversation with the new people. I’d tell them the (abridged) story of how we met, how we got engaged, etc. Then it would be the usual routine of asking questions, like “How do you know Michelle?” or “Where do you work?” This went on for the first couple hours with no problem.

But at some point at around 11:00 I found myself in the kitchen doing the dishes. I literally stopped myself in the middle of a wine glass and thought How did I get in here? Everyone else was still laughing, talking, drinking, and having a good time. But I retreated to the kitchen under the guise of “needing to clean up” a bit.

Michelle found me and asked what I was doing. I made some excuse about how I wanted to get a head start on cleaning up but she pulled me back into the living room. I was thinking, Oh, God. Back to work. 

The truth is I was tired of talking to strangers. I think I’m a million times better at it, but that night after everyone left, I started to wonder if deep down there’s any way to change a fundamentally anti-social nature. Do I really just not like people that much? I can force myself to be a part of the world, but like with gravity or friction, without a applying a constant force, do I naturally just come to a rest?

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6 Responses to On Inertia

  1. lisa says:

    Talking to strangers is hard work. What’s wrong with needing a break or just generally feeling tuckered out after a party. I don’t think that means you’re anti-social but rather that you’re the type of person who needs to put time into yourself as much as other people. It’s better than the other option which is a person who only lives for the time and interaction of other’s in their lives. Imagine if your level of energy and self-worth rested on how well you connected to others.

  2. NoAmbition says:

    First off, how come we haven’t heard the “how we got engaged” story yet? Shortchanging the loyal readers is definitely anti-social, Fletcher.

    I think you’re being overly hard on yourself in the last couple of posts, and I think one of the subconscious (perhaps?) reasons is that the goal of the project is now largely fulfilled, given that the stranger you were dying to be with has taken the penultimate step towards being with you for the rest of your life. Even winning the Super Bowl means you get a winter and spring off (sure, you have to stay in shape, but you don’t have to be a nut about it or compete week to week), so lighten up on yourself. Honestly, the emotional stress of hobnobbing with a bunch of strangers whom you have to make a good impression on and whom you will no doubt see many times again is an order of magnitude harder than chatting to a store employee (even if you will see said employee again in a dogpark).

    There’s lots of emotion swirling around your brain, dude, no matter how cool and collected you come across online. Don’t despair or give up … being able to Talk To Strangers doesn’t require you to be The Ultimate Conversationalist at all times.

  3. Tera Sanders says:

    I know how you feel.

    I’m not a big fan of babies, and all my friends know it. At a barbecue one day an exhausted mother abruptly handed her sleeping child over to me and showed me the proper way to hold uh…it. All the other women were cooing and taking pictures of me & the baby, talking about how natural I look and that I should have one of my own.

    The whole time all I could think about was getting rid of that baby and getting on with my business.

    I guess what I’m saying is: Even tho I learned how to hold a baby, I still don’t like babies.

  4. asdfjk; says:

    So what if you naturally come to rest from social interaction? If that is what you NaturalLY do, then it is part of who you are. People can force themselves to do what they’re not comfortable, and most often the results are outstanding. But those are just results, they don’t really define a person.

    Who a person is comes from within. It comes from genetic make-up, but it also comes from our environment and past experiences. Some people are organized, some people are messy. Some people are in between – everyone is different.

    As for social behaviour, I think making small talk is most often going to be more enjoyable than befriending Michelle’s friends. When you compare the two, the small talk with strangers can be described with phrases like:

    a change of scenery, at-will , no consequences , something you begin and end as you choose

    where as when you are making friends with your fiance’s friends, there are many more factors in the scene:

    what have they heard about you , what should you choose to tell them ( not tell them) , the fact that you will probably have to see these people again.

    These are things that you cannot control. More or less, I think most people prefer to be in control. You could say it is more enjoyable than going “back to work”.

    All in all, I would say that if you were to truly give others some credit, they would know you feel obliged in a situation like that. Plus, you held conversation with the guests for a couple of hours. That’s pretty commendable.

  5. Tam Frager says:

    The presentation I’m giving soon will include three (non-dictionary) definitions, even though definitions should be avoided whenever possible. But I think their relevant here.

    1. Introvert: someone who recharges when they’re alone; too much group-time is draining.
    2. Extrovert: someone who recharges in a group; too much alone time is draining.
    and the one people often haven’t heard of
    3. Ambivert: someone who sometimes recharges when alone and sometimes in a group; too much of either can be draining

    You needed to get away to do dishes because you aren’t an extrovert. And that’s okay.

  6. Syeoh says:

    My gawd, this blog post is exactly what I want to know!
    I’ve been talking to people a lot more: Been chatting with people around my office, few cashiers, with my friends, and my girlfriends family more. I’ve really been putting myself out there because this blog inspired me to. However, afterwards I feel very drained, and sometimes very bad because I may have said some stupid things, I may have given the wrong impression. These are some of the thoughts. But the worse feeling is the apparent pressure to perform this act; to have to talk all the time. Everyone else does it so easily, but me, I’m hiding my discomfort so much. It’s just a ton of work, and I just feel MUCH MUCH better when I get out of there and am alone!

    Is there a way to change a fundamentally anti-social nature?

    What have you learned Fletcher?!

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