Monday, February 22, 2016

Socially Awkward

I will never be referred to as a "social butterfly." I'm much more likely to be described as an obsessive neurotic workaholic who will suddenly come down with an incurable case of I-don't-want-to-go-so-BACK-OFF whenever someone invites me to a party.

I am grateful to the people I've met for making an effort to include me in their social circle. I've done more socializing in the past few weeks than I did in the previous months, when I was still getting settled in Small Town. It has been a pleasure to get to know some nice people and spend time with them.

But on the other hand, I've always been an introvert and a loner, and I don't like to socialize THAT often. For example, one thing that Small Town Guy and his friends like to do on a regular basis is go out for drinks to a local bar. Since I'm a teetotaler, I like bars as much as I like trying on swimsuits within earshot of girls who are a size zero and complain that they look "fat". (I have a head-butting reflex for girls like that.)

But I go and drink soda at the bar with them, because I've finally realized that it's not good to let my life revolve around work all the time. Sometimes I feel shy and nervous around that many people; big social situations like that have always made me feel anxious and prone to saying things that make me want to slap my face so that I'll stop talking.

I've declined more than one social invitation, partly because I can't afford to go out as often as the others do, and partly because most of the time, I'd rather go off and do my own thing. Although I enjoy their company, sometimes my mind wanders when I'm with them.

I find myself thinking about the books I'm reading, and all of a sudden I'm not at a bar or out to dinner with the others. I'm sitting on the fire escape of a Brooklyn tenement with Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or I'm writing in a Paris cafe with Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast, or I'm camping out in Taos, New Mexico with the main characters in Natalie Goldberg's Banana Rose.

Other times I think about my own writing, which I've sadly been neglecting due to my full-time job and part-time job. I think about which guy my main character should end up with, and I think of scenes that I want to rewrite or take out altogether. It makes me wish I could take out my journal and jot a few notes down, but then the others would either think I'm rude or want me to read my writing out loud to them, which is about as appealing as wearing a swimsuit in front of them.

When I was younger, I tried to be more social. On the rare occasions I wasn't at one of my three (or four) jobs,  I went to bars, clubs, or parties with my friends. But more often than not, I'd make up an excuse and leave early, because I felt uncomfortable or bored. Once I went to a party where I only knew one other person. All the guests spent the whole time gossiping about people that I didn't know, so finally I stood up and announced that I was going home. One of them said, "Oh, I hope we weren't boring you with all of our talk!"

I replied, "Actually, you totally were. See ya!" (I also have a thing about being a little too direct sometimes.)

I remember going to a nightclub with some friends, where they danced, drank, and flirted. All I could think was how much I'd rather be watching one of my favorite crime dramas or browsing in a bookstore. I felt that as someone in her twenties, I should enjoy myself in situations like that, as so many other twentysomethings did. But I never really did.

Now that I'm older, I do try to adapt to social situations more often. But I still feel awkward and out of place sometimes, and I feel bad for being so antisocial. I think it's something that just comes with the territory of being an introvert, and it's not something I'll ever be able to change.

What about you? Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?

Monday, February 15, 2016

What It's Like to Have a Crush...When You're a Neurotic Workaholic Like Me

1. You spend more time on your physical appearance, because you want to avoid what happened the first time you ran into him: you neither brushed your hair nor your teeth that day. You start wearing makeup, even though you always hated wearing it, and you style your hair and choose outfits more carefully. Then you look in the mirror and think, "Wow, I look good!" And that makes you feel good.

2. The day you are supposed to go out for dinner with him and his friends, a ginormous zit will suddenly appear on your nose or your chin. When you sit next to him at dinner, you feel as if your zit is growing larger by the second, to the point that it might jump off your face and attack Small Town Guy or his friends.

3. You do something you rarely did for anyone else before: you give up time that you normally spend working in order to hang out with him and his friends, who socialize regularly.

4. When you come home from hanging out with him and his friends, the stack of work on your desk will make other zits pop out on your face in response.

5. You find yourself thinking more about him than about your work. You like that he's been kind enough to include you in his circle of friends, which really helps after moving to a town where you did not know anyone.

6. You find yourself obsessing over small things, like the time you texted him and he didn't text you back. When he apologizes a couple days later for forgetting to text you because he was busy with work, you resist the urge to say, "That's okay. It's not like I was waiting by the phone, picking out the names of my future cats."

7. You start to feel hope again, which is something that you haven't felt for anyone since your Grad School Crush last year, who liked you back but also liked playing with your heart as if it was a yo-yo.

8. After all the bad dates and failed relationships, you half-convince yourself that there is no reason to feel hopeful. Small Town Guy hasn't asked you out; he's just friendly to newcomers like you. You think, If it was going to happen for me, it would've happened by now. A great guy like him could have his pick of any other woman in town, like a thinner, more attractive woman whose mind is not like an eternal Seinfeld marathon. 

9. You think that maybe eventually, your life won't revolve around work and that maybe it could be about much more than that.

10. You also think that if by some miracle Small Town Guy ever feels the same way about you, it could interfere with your professional goals. He is established in his career in this town, but you plan to eventually move on to a more secure teaching position at another school who knows where. Your work has always been the most important thing to you, and you're not sure you'd be willing to give up everything you've worked for (and everything you're still working for), even for someone like him.

What about you? When you had a crush on someone, what were the positive/negative aspects for you?

Monday, February 1, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

Spring break at the school where I teach is still more than a month away, but I've already started planning what to do during my time off. I think I might be able to afford a few days off to travel, and I've been thinking of making a brief trip back to Chicago.

I've grown (somewhat) accustomed to living in Small Town now. There are only a couple coffee shops in town, but I've already picked out my favorite cafe and often go there to write. When I feel particularly claustrophobic, I drive to one of the larger towns or cities to go shopping or try a new restaurant. Despite my usual "leave me alone unless you have food, in which case just give me the food and THEN leave" attitude, I have started socializing more with people my age who live here.

But I'd like to visit Chicago again, even just for a few days, especially because I may never live there again. The job I have in Small Town is not a tenure-track position, which means that eventually I will have to move on to another school, either in this state or maybe in some other town halfway across the country (such is the life of the untenured college teacher).

There are some things about Chicago that I miss a lot, and some things that I'm happy to be free of:

I miss the Chicago-style stuffed pizza, and the way that Chicagoans often insisted that their favorite pizza place was the best and would even get into arguments with each other about it.

I don't miss the prices at many Chicago restaurants, which apparently have the motto, "Why make things affordable when we can overcharge you weaklings who cannot resist our food? HAHAHAHAHA!"

I miss walking around Greektown, where old men sat on chairs outside the restaurants and called out to each other in Greek. I also miss the fact that I could walk down almost any street in Chicago and hear at least four or five different languages being spoken.

I don't miss random creeps who called out to me when I was walking down almost any street in Chicago, because apparently they go by the following motto: If I yell out as many offensive things as possible and/or try to grope women that I think are attractive, surely ONE of them will want to hook up with me, and I have NO IDEA why this hasn't worked yet.

I miss the neighborhood festivals, like the Chinese New Year's festival in Chinatown, where I used to watch the dragon dancers, the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, where I ate toasted ravioli and other delicious food from local restaurants, or Northalsted Market Days in Boystown, where I looked wistfully at all the good-looking, muscular guys dancing in colorful briefs and think, "And they're all gay, darn it!"

I don't miss the crowds at those festivals (or any popular event or place in the city), where there was sometimes the risk that I might get robbed/knocked down/thrown up on (and yes, all three things happened to me at some point or other during some of these festivals).

I miss riding the CTA trains and buses, because I dislike driving in Small Town; I dislike parking, and I dislike all the drivers who apparently don't know how to drive or park.

I don't miss the weird, annoying, or scary people on the CTA trains and buses, like the guy who took off his pants just because I glanced in his direction, or the people who would delay the trains by holding the doors open for their friends, or the people whose solution to crowded trains and buses would be to make them even MORE crowded by squeezing themselves onboard.

I miss riding rented bikes by the lake, window shopping on Michigan Avenue, and the free admissions' days at the museums.

I don't miss the aggressive bicyclists by the lake, the protestors who yelled at anyone who didn't protest with them on Michigan Avenue (and there are a LOT of them in Chicago right now), and the mob of tourists at the museums who walked so slowly (because they were appreciating the scenery) that I always had to mutter to myself, "Don't yell at the tourists don't yell at the tourists don't -"

On the other hand, part of me is thinking that maybe I should just save my money and not go to Chicago at all, or maybe I should go somewhere else for my spring break (I am considering a road trip to explore more of the surrounding area this summer).

What about you? What do you like best/least about your hometown, or what would you miss most about it?