My brother is getting married to a very smart young lady he met in high school, close to ten years ago. That is, of course, delightful. His future parents-in-law are throwing a lovely dinner for them tonight, which is, of course, also delightful. My presence has been requested and required, and my brother and I are close, and I will, in a little under an hour, wrap up my own delightful fiancée and set out for what will, I’m sure, be a perfectly wonderful evening.
Except that I hate dressing up, hate going out, hate meeting new people, hate seeing the old people I already know, hate going to dinner at new restaurants, hate going to dinner with more than three other people at any restaurant, hate driving, hate parking, and hate everything else about virtually any social activity you could name. It has always, always been that way.
My long-tenured friends of long suffering understand this, at least academically, and when I don’t see them for weeks, in some cases months, they don’t take it hard. They know that I attend or fail to attend events as I am able, and that my ability to be social ebbs and flows according to no known calendar. I turned down an invitation to a housewarming party a month ago with no other explanation than “I can’t be in a house with 70 people right now.”
But I know that I’m missing out. When I see my friends, I have a good time. When I meet new people, I make new friends. When I force myself to go out and be social, I’m generally not leaving important projects undone. I’m not skipping out on anything more important than sitting in front of the TV, or reading a book. I’m not missing anything I’m going to regret. I’ve forced myself to be social before. In 2006 I had a chicken fight with some of my friends, seeing who would be the first to back down from a schedule of going out every night. I had the money to spend on the project, which gave me an advantage, but my friends didn’t have the crippling anxiety, which I felt evened it up nicely. My recollection is hazy now, but it was either 13 or 14 consecutive days that we saw each other. 13 or 14 nights that I didn’t spend alone.
In 2009 my lovely fiancée Katie moved in, so of course my nights have ceased to be nights alone, but if anything, that has weakened my resolve to go out and see people even further. I simply don’t get lonely. And the second half of the year especially, I’ve lived that way. I’ve seen my friends a few times, and I’ve seen my family a few times, but I’ev spent most of the year indoors, at home.
And it creates a kind of momentum that is difficult to overcome.
But luckily there are the holidays.
Thanksgiving got us out of the house, if only to go as far as to see my family, and after that had come and gone, Christmas pulled us together for the same. Then of course, we had a family dinner to spend some Christmas money, and finally, on Thursday night, we had a New Year’s Eve party to spread the love around to my friends.
And so tonight I will be going out with my fiancée, and my parents, and my brother and his fiancée to dinner, and yes, there will be some people there I haven’t met before. And in fact they are people who will one day end up on my family tree, so I should get used to the idea. Feelings are feelings and I will admit that I feel nervous and would just as soon not go, but I am going.
So wish me luck.