Hi there. Thanks for inviting to your party. You might be wondering why I'm sitting by myself far away from all the fun. Don't mind me, I'm not a psychotic murderer scanning for new victims. I'm also not unnecessarily rude, arrogant or unfriendly. I'm just bubbling with terror right now. My psychiatrist calls it anxiety disorder. I think I would just prefer being invisible.
Mostly, I will be the overly nice person at a social gathering. Problem is, I will expect the same from you, which you probably won't be because you're normal. You will not notice as I hold the door open for you, or smile at even though you're basically a stranger. And that's okay, you didn't do it intentionally. It's a party, you're busy having fun. I'll just run from you for the rest of the evening, because I'm embarrassed for myself. Later at night, I will stay up for hours wondering what I should have done better to come off as a 'normal' person.
During small talk, I will be the attentive one. I will smile, laugh, and pay attention to everything you say. I will ask questions, mostly because I fear the awkward pauses. You will ask me questions too, because you're nice. But, honey, I'm shaking on the inside with the worry that my answers will be too boring to hold your attention; or that you are too smart to be fooled by my fake calmness. So, even as you nod and smile at me out of good manners, I'll know you're only trying to come up with a gentle excuse to leave.
Sometimes, I will brave up and crack a joke, or share a story from my experience. Good chances are that you won't even hear me, because the others are louder. Their voices and stories are more confident than mine. So, as my self-esteem takes a painful punch, I will slowly lean back in my seat (crouch into a fetal position in my mind), and go back to being the silent, smiling listener.
Every now and then, when no one is watching, I will sneak into the washroom, or any empty room with a working lock, just to breathe. Small breaks from the crowd and loud noises, for the tightening lungs and brains.
Every time I return, I will be the one who smiles the most and talks the least at the party, because I cannot keep up with your energy and confidence. And smiling is the easiest, the kindest thing I can do.
In the end, when it all gets too hard, I will be the first to sneak away. You will probably not even notice. And if you do, you, as a nice person, will gently try and stop me. But after I gently turn you down and run, you won't miss me for a second.
You see, I don't flee social situations because I'm unfriendly, or because I don't like you. I flee because grinding my brain cells over and over again to find something to say, to be interesting enough for you, is exhausting. Watching you lose interest in me, watching the rest of the party effortlessly have fun, is exhausting. Because in social situations, I'm a preemie: I somehow manage to push my way out and be there, but I don't how to breathe without help.
The next time you have a party, you won't invite me, and I will totally understand where you're coming from. I'm a party pooper, the socially-challenged guest you have to try too hard to include. After two tries, you will give up and secretly call just your fun-loving friends. In a way, you will be doing me a favour, sparing me the horror of socialising. Your rudeness will spare me the many minor panic attacks that I usually endure when crammed in a room with confident acquaintances. So, yeah, thanks.
But here's the thing. You will never know the side of me that can be fun to be around. The 'me' who, in the company of people with patience and loyalty, can be the life of the party.