This is a social anxiety post, and, like almost everything I write, it’s also kind of gratitude for J in words. I’ve been feeling pretty down and invisible again lately. It’s because March is approaching and that used to be a time when I’d go to a big social event I actually looked forward to. That’s so rare. It’s so rare it can’t be overstated how rare it is. But I won’t go this year, and this will be the third year in a row I haven’t gone, because I know there’s no longer any connection there. In fact, I probably won’t even get invited this year.
I didn’t get invited to many parties as a kid. When I did, I sometimes went, but was nearly always totally uncomfortable. I’m not really a party person. Crowds bother me. Manufactured socializing bothers me. Loudness bothers me. Then, occasionally, as I grew up, I got this (probably dumb, looking back now) idea that maybe I’d be more comfortable if I had parties myself. Maybe that would be easier. Because I could control the guest list. No one would be there that made me uncomfortable…I just wouldn’t invite those people. So when I was sixteen, I had a party. I invited some ‘friends’ from school. ONLY my best friend at the time showed up, and he was immediately in a hurry to leave. Why would he stay? Nobody else was there but me.
When I turned 21, I didn’t go out to bars with friends. I didn’t want to go out drinking, and I’d already learned at 16 that if I invited people over, no one would show, particularly since they’d know my goal for the evening wouldn’t be to get shitfaced drunk, and if you aren’t going to get sloppy drunk for your 21st birthday, what are you even doing, right? No point in going out…no point in invited people over. So I stayed home alone. And I still don’t drink. But I was the designated driver for lots of other folks on their 21st birthday. Having a square, tee-totaling, stone cold sober ‘friend’ pays off that one day in your life, at least.
When J and I were getting married, I had a ‘bachelorette party.’ Again…nobody came. Maybe it was because I’m not into drinking or strippers. I dunno. It was just going to be hanging out together at my place. But…it didn’t work out. Again. So I stayed up sad and alone, watching bad cable and eating most of the food I made by myself, and waited for J to come home from his bachelor party and hold me and tell me that he still liked me and he’d always show up (he did do and say all those things, for those of you who were wondering).
After J and I were married, things improved a little. We got invited to more social events as a couple. We entertained some and folks actually showed up. (Gasp!) I think J’s presence in my life sort of validated me, because we could do ‘couple’ things and I was no longer an odd duck in a room full of pairs, and because he’ll occasionally drink a beer.
I threw J a 40th birthday party and almost all of ‘his’ people showed up. The only people who didn’t make it were his best friend and his best friend’s girlfriend, who live 10 hours from us, and the only reason they didn’t make it was because their flight got canceled…AFTER they were *sitting on the plane.* But I mean…it was clear people wanted to show up for J.
And we used to have a yearly party on Kentucky Derby Saturday. A few years, the guest list was in the double digits (which for ME, is a huge party). But two Mays ago, knowing that we have a party every year on that day, suddenly, none of my friends could make it. They all had other plans. Which all cropped up within a couple days of the party…after I’d already bought food (at least I hadn’t yet gone to the liquor store to buy my one yearly bottle of bourbon to make juleps…which I don’t drink…I just make for other people). I try to be understanding and forgiving about things like that. I really do. I know everyone has lives and shit happens and not everyone takes being canceled on as hard and as personally as me. Maybe they really DID all have ‘something come up’ to where they couldn’t make it. Maybe it was all a big coincidence. Maybe every time no one showed up for me was a big coincidence. Coincidence after coincidence after coincidence after….
But it sure as hell never feels that way.
J told me he was glad everyone canceled. “That just means more pie for me, Jen. All that cooking’s all for me now.” He took us to an amusement park on Derby Saturday instead of staying home to watch the race that year. I know that was to take my mind off of the party I had planned that wasn’t happening and the ‘friends’ I wasn’t going to see, and to try and make me smile.
It mostly worked.
And of course, to my ‘friends,’ I have to try and pretend like I don’t notice that they show up routinely for other people but not me. That they prioritize other people but not me. That I prioritize them, but they don’t prioritize me. The Social Contract says I have to act like it doesn’t bother me that no one showed up for my ONE party I used to throw a year.
I didn’t even attempt to throw a party last year and I won’t throw one this year…or again. I’m back to accepting that the people around me don’t wanna show up. Not for me.
But before this begins to sound too much like one of those, ‘Aw, Jen is feeling down…Let’s all get together an’ tell her she’s amazing and fantastical because her don’t have no frenz…’ type of whiny, desperate, ‘please internet strangers, validate me’ pieces, I’ll say that this past May, I didn’t WANT to throw a party on Derby Saturday. And I don’t WANT to throw another party this year or again. Not because no one would show up (but they wouldn’t), but because I didn’t want to invite them.
And on this past October 1, I turned 40. I know that’s customarily a Big Deal. I threw J a big party and a week or so before my Big 4-0, he said (still can’t tell if this was serious or a joke…his delivery is so deadpan sometimes it’s hard to know for sure), ‘You want a party this year?’
I told him no, because no one would show up.
J: People would show up.
me: Who would show up?
J: Your parents. Your brother…
me: Okay. I mean, what people who I would actually WANT to show up would show up? 😛
J: <rolls his eyes up to the ceiling, thinking about it, knowing now that maybe he’s unintentionally instigated a social anxiety flare up> Um…
J: I know a few people who would desperately WANT to show up. But they just live far away. And most of them don’t know your real name or where we live.
me: Yes. All my real friends are digital.
Anyway, I guess I just wanted to use this post, not to ask for validation, and not only to work through some residual Social Anxiety Shit, but to thank all you kind people out here in Blog-Land for showing up for me. I really, truly appreciate it. And J does too, even though he never writes anything, and he’s not a ‘blog’ guy or even a particularly wordy one. He was the only one who showed up for me for a long time, and it’s nice now that he’s not alone in being someone I can lean on and count on. ❤