I am awkward. This feels like confessing a deep-dark secret, but the truth is that anyone who spends more than thirty seconds with me already knows this. I know. You know. I know that you know. This really just makes the whole thing worse.
I'm terrible at small talk. For one, I don't really see the point in yammering on about nothing, especially to strangers. But mostly it's because I'm a thinker. I need to marinate on things to fully form an opinion, so I spend a lot of time inside my head. This is, of course, why I like writing; but it has the unfortunate side effect of making me so uncomfortable when I'm buying my groceries that I read magazine covers and pretend to care about the latest Kardashian diet or marriage fad. I never have been able to work out an appropriate level of friendship with the person who is currently scanning my tampons and five bags of PopChips.
Even just passing someone on the street is fraught with difficulty. Common courtesy around here is to smile and say some sort of pleasant greeting (hello, good morning, my your Cockapoo is looking particularly fluffy today, etc.) But starting from about ten feet away the panic begins: how soon do I start smiling? Too far and I look like a deranged overly happy axe murderer, too close and it just looks like I flippantly tossed a halfhearted smile at them. And how much eye contact do I make? Again, too much = creepy. Too little = douche-bag. Am I blinking enough? Am I blinking too much? And now I've completely missed whatever stilted conversation the poor, unsuspecting, able-to-make-basic-eye-contact-without-having-a-mental-breakdown person is attempting to have with me.
Mommy groups are particularly painful for me. If you've never been to one, it's basically the equivalent of the first day of school when everyone had to go around and say something interesting about themselves, only for hours at a time once a week or so. (Am I the only one who blanked and just said the name of my cat? This was my go-to interesting fact for some reason.) To me it felt a lot like being called on in class when you'd just spent the last ten minutes watching a squirrel eating a french fry outside the window and you don't have the slightest clue what the teacher was talking about.
I would get nervous and stammer and babble when it was my turn to talk, and never contribute any sage advice (though I am clearly just chock-full of it,) because I only thought of the perfect thing to say once the conversation had moved on to new topics, and my blurting out the best way to puree carrots somehow failed to fit in with the discussion over when it's okay to resume sex after having a baby. (Hey, maybe some people are into that sort of thing, you don't know.)
And to make things worse every one there is somehow already best-friends-forever and I'm left standing on the outside looking in, yet again, wondering how I always miss the memo when we're teaming up into cliques and if, had I shown up a few weeks ago instead of waiting for the stitches in my perineum to heal, I would be bff's with everyone already, too. (Answer: no.)
But as painful as this was and is still, sometimes, I'm finally to a point where I'm really fine with it. I have enough people in my life who accept me for all my uncomfortable weirdness and love me anyway or even because of it. I'm an interesting, fun person who has a lot of deep, complex thoughts as well as a myriad of shallow, crass musings (the vast majority of which are boob and/or penis jokes). Maybe I've failed at finding myself and my kids a wide social network, but on the other hand it's taught them how to be self-suffcient and quietly creative and mindful.
I do hope that they find socializing to be easier and less traumatic than I do, and so far the boys seem to be comfortable around a large variety of people when I do pluck up the courage to go flitting about among the general public (Girl is quiet but sharp and sweet when she warms up.) I sometimes even follow their lead; aka, hide behind my adorable, charming children and let them do the talking. I wonder if any of them has worked out the appropriate number of blinks required for a three-minute conversation while the dog pees in the grass nearby. At least the dog never feels awkward. Maybe he knows.