anxiety · flight or fight · people · social anxiety · socially awkward

Social Setback

I really wish I could crawl into a hole and die.

Right now in this moment, this expression fits how I feel, even though it is quite drastic and is even dangerous sounding. I just hate coming out of a social situation that I tried to deal with and now all I can do is replay the bad moments. Hence the phrase, “I really wish I could crawl into a hole and die.”

So. My brother and his girlfriend got one of their friends to officiate their (short) marriage ceremony before they signed the paperwork to make everything official. The friend in question is a woman whose wedding they had attended months earlier. She brought along her husband, whom both my brother and his girlfriend are friendly with as well. My father and I were present as witnesses to the ceremony, and I helped record the event on video on the girlfriend’s phone. Before things actually got started, I was returning from an evening walk around the neighborhood. The guests were already waiting outside to begin the ceremony.

Right off the bat I felt awkward. The husband remarked to my brother, “Oh, I didn’t know you had a sister.” Strike One. After my brother introduced me by name, I gave a nod and a wave; not really sure what else I was supposed to do. I felt super exposed being seen by multiple people, especially people I didn’t know. Like a deer in headlights I was frozen and my vocal cords wouldn’t work. I wanted to speak but I couldn’t. My mind raced to try to think of something, anything to say. The wife commented, “I knew you [my brother] had a sister but only now I know her name.” My brother laughed and said, “She’s very quiet.” Strike Two.

Later we all moved inside the house instead of standing outside on the porch for the sake of having more room. I was fine with helping to record the event on camera. It was fun, even. But what came after was embarrassing.

The husband was making light conversation and he noticed a collection of Barbie dolls in a glass cabinet. I said they were mine when I was little but I don’t collect them anymore. He went on to talk about a cousin of his who collects those dolls as an adult hobby and how some of them have a lot of worth in money. Fast forward a little, and I was given a page to print my name and give my signature as a witness to the wedding ceremony.

Later the husband asked if I was done with school. Before I could answer, he asked how old I was. He inquired all of this while standing across the room from where I was seated, so it was most definitely not a private one-on-one conversation. An awkward moment passed where I hesitated in answering and a nervous smile graced my face. Several negative connotations ran through my mind. What if he thinks I am too old? (I am 30 years old.) What if he asks more questions about my background? What if he asks what I did before being in school? (Basically nothing, aside from the fact I diddled around with short-lived jobs and schools that never amounted to anything substantial.) I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. The walls closing in on me and it was as if I had floated out of my body and into the air above. Only perhaps 2, 3 seconds of that. It felt like an everlasting eternity. My brother ended up answering for me; saying I returned to school to study environmental science and was doing online classes now. He added that he thought I liked going to class from home and I said, “No, I don’t like being home all the time.” And there went Strike Three.

Honestly, the situation was my worst nightmare come alive. This is why when I have had opportunities to be around my brother’s colleagues or friends, I often make myself scarce because I don’t trust myself to keep my anxiety under control when people ask me questions. And I always fear embarrassing him because I am so uncomfortable. For this specific situation, I thought it would be a no-brainer just to be present for the ceremony because my brother and his girlfriend wanted it to be short. I also didn’t know the officiant’s husband would be there or that they would linger around afterwards chatting for forever with the newly married couple.

I am not embarrassed that the husband didn’t know I existed (“I didn’t know you had a sister”). I can imagine my brother probably doesn’t talk openly with his friends about me because I am somewhat of an enigma. We’re not exactly the kind of siblings that have a lot of shared activities or constantly do stuff together. My interactions with him are distant at best and I only see him often now because he is temporarily living at home until he moves out into his own place. The “She’s very quiet” comment was likely made to try to ease past his own awkwardness with my non-verbal response to his friends, but the moment he said it, I felt stung by a perceived negativity associated with the description. My perception fueled the discomfort that continued to build later when the husband asked me questions that felt quite personal, in addition to the nature of the conversation not being private so when he spoke to me, literally everyone looked in my direction to see how I would respond. It was sensory overload for me.

Like a lot of past situations where I perceived I failed socially, having one setback can feel like the end of the world.

2 thoughts on “Social Setback

  1. Awww! That does sound very awkward, but not worth dying over! [virtual hug].

    When I’m in similar situations or I’m talking to someone who is I always ask this question – deep down, do you really care about what these people (in this case it sounds like you’ll likely never see them again) think about you? Does their opinion mean anything to you?

    I hate personal questions, so I tend to deflect with a question about the other person so I can quietly exit the conversation mentally and nod and hum in the right places. Most of the time, the other person doesn’t really care, so I don’t feel obligated to answer. If it gets awkward…well, there’s always snark. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, snark. Your virtual hug is much needed, lol. It’s very true that those people are likely people I’ll never see again. I didn’t have much of an impression of them either from the few minutes I spent in their presence and I imagine it might’ve been the same for them too. But I still feel awkward knowing they know I exist and the chances that they might inquire about me in the future when they hang out with my brother.

      I wish I had your snark for making an escape plan out of a conversation, haha.


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