I thought I hid it well through the years. I worked hard at suppressing my social awkwardness. In fact, for years you could say I was passing as someone fairly socially adept. However at last night's Wylie High School Theater Awards and Banquet, it all came back in an incredibly painful instant.
When I was a baby, I would only go to 3 people. Sadly, my father was not one of them as I would only let my grandmothers and my mother hold me. When I was a little girl, I was very clingy with my mother. In fact, I cried every morning at school until 2nd grade.
Sure, I was fine with people one on one or in very small groups, but in large groups I just didn't want to be amongst all those other, well, people.
I was only fond of one friend at a time, never caring to be the center of attention. When my one friend spent time with the plethora of her other friends, I tried not to get my feelings hurt rather spending that time reading. My mother called me 'precocious' because I could really come out with some ten dollar words in conversation.
I really disliked social situations, in fact I spent inordinate amounts of time fretting over normal things most people take for granted. I hated taking my drink back for refills, disliked dances, never wanted to be called on in school, disliked meetings, certainly did not want to be called up to a stage for awards, and I didn't like shopping.
Sure, I made steps toward proper socialization. The two times I stepped out were when I sang a solo at a choir concert in middle scchool, because I was selected and had no choice, and when I played the piano in the junior high talent show, because I wanted to see if I could do it. You see, I'm certainly not abnormal, I just have very awkward tendencies. Rather than try to become friendly with them, I did my best to suppress them.
I know it sounds strange writing about myself in this way, perhaps even a little conceited, but I truly identify with the intellectual, quiet girl more than any other identity. And I see this in my oldest son too who is also socially awkward but highly intellectual. When I talk with him about various topics, it is very clear he is a deep thinker. In fact, he tosses out more ten dollar words than I ever did. I totally get that.
It's not to say I was socially inept, but just awkward. So as a young adult I actually took up smoking, just to have something to do with my hands. Back in the day we could smoke everywhere so between every college class on campus, I used the cigarette to pretend I had something to do, a purpose for standing outside the classroom and not moving my hands in awkward ways, because I'm a hand wringer.
Of course I did fine in life. I got jobs, learned to schmooze in sales, even learned to give speeches. But not without practicing, a lot. I have spent countless hours as an adult pacing the house, practicing how to answer interview questions, and give speeches. And my speeches are good because I'm a writer. But put me in front of a group of people without a well practiced speech, and you get to see that awkward little girl come flooding back.
Last night I was unprepared to present some gifts at the theater banquet, but I was forced to do so, on stage, under the hot lights, in front of a lot of people I don't know. Oh I've learned how to work a small crowd through the years, and I can be very funny and engaging, when I want to be. But this made me very uncomfortable because I really dislike the spotlight and standing on a lit stage represents everything I dislike. So I stammered my way through thanking the two director teachers and one incredibly hard working parent, and was reminded in an instant of why I took up writing. Because I am so much better at expressing myself to an invisible audience than I am doing it in front of live people. For realz.