Monday, December 7, 2015

Friendship

 photo from bekassine...'s Flickr
Friendship is weird to me. I mean, I'm not a robot, I understand both why we have friends and I have the desire for friends and companionship. But still, the act of making friends is not one that comes naturally to me.

All my life, I've been very quiet around strangers. I do not do well with coming up with things to say. Small talk is something I'm atrocious at. I'm grateful that nerdy things are currently in vogue because it means that I'm more likely to mention the latest Marvel movie and likely get some kind of response from people, and based on what the person says, I'm able to gauge just how much I need to reveal that I know about those franchises.

(An aside: I've learned from experience that if I just unleash the firehose that is my knowledge of random trivia, I can intimidate and shut down those conversations with the average person right quick. So, gauge and adjust.)

That said, the act of getting to know people is incredibly uncomfortable. You know when you see two animals fighting, and they're just circling each other, feinting every now and then, but not charging, gathering intel on their opponents reflexes and such? That's sort of what it feels like when I try to get to know people. There's so many things I'm aware of--to what kind of politics do they ascribe? Should I curse around them? How religious are they? Do they like comic books? Movies? Reading? What kind of movies/books/music?

I don't want to go on a rant about something I saw on The Daily Show and find out that person is a very staunch Republican--not because I can't be friends with Republicans, but because I don't want to offend the person right out of the gate. Same with cursing. I curse a lot. Like, a lot. So how much is this person comfortable with? A smattering of "damns" and "hells"? Are they cool with the f'word, but not cool with "goddammit"?

This is all trivial stuff, and while I crosses my mind, there are other things that I'm much more aware of. Such as that awkward silence that just happened: was it because they didn't like the thing I talked about and are just being polite, or was that just a natural lull in the conversation. Did they not hear me just now, or are they choosing to ignore that particular lane of conversation? Are you getting tired of talking to me and looking for an exit?--Maybe I should exit first to save them from being held up by my lack of self-awareness? Did exiting that conversation just offend them because it looks like I'm trying to rush them along, like I don't have time for a conversation? I actually don't have time for this conversation right now but I don't want to be rude and cut this person off

GAAAAAAAH *static, short, cough, splutter, ded*

My wife and I have recently been trying to make more friends--or at least acquaintances--with people from work, and I find myself going through all the usual steps that I do with friendships. The friends that I have know that I'm a constant worry ball of anxiety, and they've come to accept and understand that about me, but I can't throw all my crazy onto new people. You gotta ease them into the crazy. So, even though after every interaction I want to email them a list of apologies for things that I'm fairly sure were stupid, I don't. Because that would be crazy.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."