Reflections on Socializing

I plan to make 2011 the year of the friend.  I made a promise to myself to keep in touch with the people I love most and to do something social at least once every six weeks. Whoo! Let’s see if my lame self can do this with any consistency.

Today, I went to breakfast with Ashleigh, a mother on one of Tyoma’s classmates.  Two weeks ago on our first breakfast, I spazzed out, not knowing what to talk about.  I have a terrible habit of bombarding people with questions in social situations.   Part of it is not knowing what to say. The rest is a quiz to find something entertaining to talk about. I’m pragmatic about conversations and particular about what I find interesting in a person. I interrogate people at parties to find a mutual link, so I can relax and chat authentically.

This strategy flatters some, especially folks who have a grand passion lurking.  I feed off the positive energy of an eager speaker, and if we like the same thing, nothing else matters. Unfortunately, many are put off my intensity, give me the “Bitch, please” look and edge away. At a recent Twilight party, a girl physically scooted her chair from me, as if she feared I would grab her by the shoulders and shake her, asking, “Do you like rocks? Plants? How about zombies? Everybody likes zombies!” I think she needed more wine.

I don’t do well with small talk, except for the memorized pleasantries I exchange with cashiers and people I’m stuck in line with.  I remain intentionally uninformed on politics and sports, probably because the topics intimidate me.  I prefer conversations about odd or specific hobbies.  I relish strange details and vivid discussions. When I go home after my 90 social minutes, I want to ponder curious pursuits and why people crave them.

I avoid well-liked fiction like Twilight and Harry Potter, perhaps out of reactive stubbornness to their popularity. Instead,  I  prefer morbid horror and literature dealing with death, anxiety and depression.  Since my own strange ruminations focused on these topics for years, it is a logical preference.  I do like other fiction–magical realism and any odd writing open to interpretation.  I seek out descriptive and atmospheric pieces that create an internal visual trip. I feel so alien in this world that visiting a tense, ambiguous world validates my experiences in this one.

Anyway, I had breakfast with Ashleigh, a Twilight  and TV fan. We met last year dropping off our autistic sons for preschool. She is instantly likeable, the sort of person who dresses for comfort and loves to read books. Her loving and genuine acceptance of her son, just as he is, wins my respect and affection. I’ve been to her Twilight parties and cracked inappropriate jokes during screenings and met other girls who dress comfortably and like to read.

We had our first breakfast get together a few weeks ago.  I probably have made her uncomfortable with my intense interrogation and overall twitchiness.  Today, I managed to find just the right questions to ask, and we had a pleasant conversation. I suspect that we both construct worlds in our heads–I went through my vampire phase in 1991 (thank you Francis Ford Coppola!).

An interesting note.  I had posted on Facebook that I had not read any Harry Potter books in response to a list of books Ashleigh had posted. For my birthday, she bought the first Harry Potter book for me. It was unthinkable to her that a civilized person had not read one. I was touched by her  sweet and thoughtful gesture. She also packed up her  collection of sequels for me to borrow, since I was sure to love Potter.  Awwww.

I was gracious, but anxious. How on earth am I to read fantasy? Magic, prophecies, and Deus ex machina  bore me in a deep existential way. I couldn’t make it through one novel of Lord of the Rings, let alone seven volumes of popular fantasy. I will give it a try, maybe I will like it. After all, Allan Rickman is in those Potter movies, right?

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